Youngstown Community “Bill of Rights” Raises More Questions Than Answers

Energy In Depth's Shawn dissects the troubling inaccuracies in Youngstown's proposed "Community Bill of Rights":

"The proposed Youngstown Community Bill of Rights, on which the community will vote on May 4th, offers more questions than answers.  The charter amendment, which was written by Frack Free Mahoning, is actually a hodgepodge of feel good language, all of which lacks any understanding of what the bill actually enforces.  The group was able to dupe enough unsuspecting residents of Youngstown to get this measure on the ballot in order to further its less than noble cause against not just the oil and gas industry, but most other businesses that operate in the city.

Not only is the measure trying to kill business in Youngstown, but there is also a provision in the ballot that actually tries to circumvent Ohio law and even the U.S. Constitution.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The authors of this bill actually think they can circumvent and even restrict constitutional authority. If that sounds outlandish, it is.  More on that later.

Luckily, there are groups in Youngstown who saw through this smoke and mirrors and are fighting back against this harmful measure.

To fully understand the potential ramifications of the proposed language, Energy In Depth decided to look through the language and offer an analysis on some of these new “Community Rights” that the measure would enshrine into law.

Section 4: Community Bill of Rights:

A. Right to Pure Water. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in The City of Youngstown possess a fundamental and inalienable right to sustainably access, use, consume, and preserve water drawn from natural water cycles that provide water necessary to sustain life within the City.

  • Everybody wants clean water.  In fact, that’s the reason why the United States has the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, two federal acts (among others) under which the oil and gas industry is regulated.
  • If the authors are somehow claiming that hydraulic fracturing or disposal wells will affect their water, let’s look at the facts.  Over 1.2 million wells nationwide, as well as 80,000 wells in the state of Ohio alone, have been hydraulically fractured without one single incident of groundwater contamination.  This has been repeatedly reported by the U.S. EPA and state regulators across the United States.
  • In terms of disposal wells, the U.S. EPA regulates these under the Class II Underground Injection Control Program. The agency has granted Ohio primacy since 1983 for the wells in our state, and there has not been one single case of groundwater contamination from disposal wells.
  • Industries that discharge into rivers and other public waterways must obtain NPDES permits from the Ohio EPA.  Would these permits still be valid in the city of Youngstown, or would there now be new effluent limits set by “citizens” that would make federal and state standards moot?

B.  Right to Clean Air. All residents, natural communities and ecosystems in the City of Youngstown possess a fundamental and inalienable right to breathe air untainted by toxins, carcinogens, particulates and other substances known to cause harm to health.

  • Again, this is why we have the Clean Air Act, another act the oil and natural gas industry follows, which sets emissions, ozone and air quality standards for the entire country (last we checked, Ohio is still part of the United States).  But let’s face it, without any permits or specific emission standards, this amendment language could essentially shut down Humility of Mary Health PartnersYoungstown State UniversityV&M Star,  National Additive Manufacturing Institute and pretty much anything else that allows our economy to operate.  If your business emits anything — anything — you would be in violation of this bill of rights, as would all of those cars that the majority of Youngstown residents drive.
  • Permits are created and issued by federal and state governments for this very reason (that seems so elementary, but it’s clearly something that escaped the ideologues who wrote this character amendment).  Emissions that are inevitably created from any activity that occurs in our diverse economy must obviously be managed. But, if no emissions can be created whatsoever, then not even the construction of windmills could occur. How would Youngstown continue to operate — or any city, for that matter?"


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