City Council right to challenge state law on fracking regulation

John Howell
Athens News
June 1, 2012

Dean Bruckner’s letter (Athens NEWS, May 14) criticizing City Council for “defying” state law would have, in 1776, put him with the Tories, willing to stay under the thumb of the British crown. Council’s action is entirely consistent with the Ohio Constitution and with federal law. It is current Ohio state law, supported by corporate oil and gas interests, that threatens our inalienable rights, much like British law, supported by British bankers and the East India Trading Company, trampled the rights of American colonists.

The Ohio Constitution, reflecting the language of the Declaration of Independence, begins by asserting that “All men (sic) are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.” Surely “defending life” and “obtaining happiness and safety” includes access to that which life requires, including water and air, free of life-killing toxins.

Likewise, federal law has supported the rights to clean water by providing funding, through several federal agencies, for the development of rural water supplies. The Athens City Council action is consistent with the intent of federal law. It is state law that has failed.

There is no false confidence in City Council’s action, as Bruckner suggests. The measure is a tool by which state action can be challenged in court, should ODNR ignore the welfare of citizens and approve drilling within the Athens well-head protection zone. Without that action Athens would have to meekly accept ODNR decisions threatening our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

It is reasonable for the state to handle the permitting of oil and gas drilling; it is not reasonable for the state to prevent communities from prohibiting drilling within their own jurisdictions in order to protect water supplies. Whose interests are served by preventing local communities from protecting themselves? The interests served, of course, are those of the oil and gas industry – fewer palms to grease with campaign contributions at the state level than there are at the level of the communities where people live and have to drink the water.

Athens City Council has acted in accordance with federal law and with the Ohio Constitution, and in accordance with its responsibility to protect its citizens. It is state law which has failed and must be challenged.

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