The highly questionable use of the community “bill of rights” is making headlines again this week in Ohio. While there is a petition being circulated in Gates Mills, two operators are taking action against these costly initiatives.
In Gates Mills, activists are attempting to circulate a petition to get a community “bill of rights” on the November ballot, which of course is an attempt to ban shale development in the city limits. This comes after the Mayor came up with the idea to put together a land trust for landowners to maximize their bargaining position. You can learn more about what the community “bill of rights” entails here.
There is currently no Utica Shale development taking place near Gates Mills, and more than likely will never take place anywhere near the village. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the community “bill of rights” has been soundly defeated three times in Youngstown. In Bowling Green, a similar measure was defeated not because of oil and gas development there, but because the “bill of rights” is widely considered aggressively anti-business.
The business manager of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 called one such measure in Youngstown a “jobs killer.” Business leaders in Bowling Green said the “bill of rights” could discourage other business in Bowling Green not associated with oil and gas, which means putting men and women out of work who have nothing to do with “fracking” whatsoever.
Down the road from Gates Mills, Broadview Heights may soon learn how ineffective their community “bill of rights” is when it is challenged in a local court of law. Two fed up conventional operators in northeastern Ohio have decided to take the city to court over their charter amendment that attempted to ban oil and gas development in the city limits in 2012, when the city has no authority to do so whatsoever under state law.
Bass Energy Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corp. filed a suit against Broadview Heights in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for their passage of the community “bill of rights.” In Ohio, ODNR has sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location, and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations of Ohio’s oil and gas industry. Yet, the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund duped the city into believing they had the ability to circumvent Ohio law as well as the U.S. Constitution. From the measure:
Section 3. i. 5- Corporations in violation of the prohibition against gas and oil extraction, or seeking to engage in gas or oil extraction shall not have the rights of “persons” afforded by the United States and Ohio Constitutions, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contracts clauses within the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the Ohio Constitution.
Likely, the courts will side with the operators suing Broadview Heights if the city chooses to press the issue. If that happens, it will likely reveal the costly legal issues ahead for Gates Mills, should the activists succeed in imposing the “bill of rights” there.