Home Environment Anti-Fracking Group Calls for Extraction Ban Near Athens Aquifer

Anti-Fracking Group Calls for Extraction Ban Near Athens Aquifer

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Another anti-fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) group emerged, guns loaded, at the Athens City Council meeting last Monday and called for a ban on shale, gas and oil extraction and related activities within parameters of the Athens County aquifer.

Athens resident and Ohio University professor Dick McGinn spoke to Athens City Council on behalf of the newly formed Bill of Rights Committee (BORC). The committee focuses on banning activities that violate the rights of residents and endanger health, safety and welfare, namely fracking and the use of injection wells.

McGinn, 2nd Ward City Councilmen Jeff Risner and residents John Howell, Richard Hogan, Milenna Miller, Christine Hughes, Beverly Flanigan and Ed Newman met officially as the BORC for the first time earlier in the day.

Ohio Revised Code grants a city the right to regulate pollution of the water supply up to 20 miles beyond city limits. The BORC sees the 20 miles as a starting point, hoping to expand the regulated zone to all areas supplying water to Athens County. The biggest challenge facing the BORC lies in the city council’s lack of ability to regulate private land. Therefore, the BORC aims to regulate the entire aquifer.

“The city council has jurisdiction in the city, but it won’t do to have a ban on only the water coming in [from within the 20 mile zone],” McGinn said. “If the water from the Hocking comes in from Logan or Lancaster, and is unsafe, we have to go there and fight too. We are talking the entire aquifer that supplies water to the city of Athens.”

The BORC hopes city council passes the ordinance and puts it on the November 2013 ballot as a referendum. McGinn said BORC plans to push the ordinance onto the ballot with or without the help of city council.

“Fracking poses a real and present danger to our health and safety,” said McGinn, addressing city council.

The committee wants to create a “Community Bill of Rights” for Athens County, using the legislation to implement a ban on fracking, injection wells, trucking, piping and other things related to the industry in the Athens area.

Currently, the BORC hopes to add members from both Athens and Ohio University. McGinn wants to add an Ohio University student to represent the opinion of the student body and a representative of the Registrar’s office, in particular, believing the poor water quality from fracking in the area deters admissions to an extent.

“Ohio University is part of the Athens community,” said McGinn. “Anything to do with OU has an affect on Athens in some way.”

The key difference between the BORC and other anti-fracking groups lies in the attempts to form real, legitimate legislation. Instead of organizing protests and the like, the BORC wants to implement actual law and procedure to limit fracking. Still, the BORC works with other anti-fracking groups to attack it from all angles.

“Every group has an authority on one aspect,” said McGinn. “It is very complex, so we all need to work together.”

Fracking, an issue of constant debate across the country, stole the spotlight again in southeastern Ohio in November. On Nov. 19, a group of Athens County residents wearing hazmat style suits and respirators and carrying large placards emblazoned with skulls, blockaded the front gate of an injection well on Ladd Ridge Road.

Police eventually arrived, successfully dispersing the crowd without any violence or arrests, but the protestors successfully shut down the dumpsite for the day.

On Nov. 29, according to the Columbus Dispatch, state officials escorted about 100 people out of an information session on a proposed “fracking” waste injection well after the crowd tried to take over the Ohio Department of Natural Resources open house and turn it into a public hearing.

Officials ordered the group to leave the department’s division of wildlife regional headquarters.

BORC continues to push the ordinance to ban fracking within the aquifer zone of the city of Athens while city council continues to consider the ordinance for a future vote.

“The laws are not fair or just,” said McGinn. “Protests sometimes seem ignored, so we are focusing on the right of the people to make it a right.”






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