Last night, for the fourth time in two years, Youngstown voters soundly rejected an anti-fracking charter amendment, disguised as a community “Bill of Rights,” by a vote of 58 to 42 percent. As the Youngstown Vindicator reported, the defeat was significant:
“This was the largest margin of defeat — 15.7 percentage points — for the measure first put on the May 2013 ballot by the Community Bill of Rights Committee.”
The results are not surprising, especially considering that the Mahoning Valley has greatly benefitted from the jobs and economic growth that have come with oil and gas development. As we’ve noted before, the region has landed over 25 oil and gas projects, contributing to at least 4,000 jobs and investments totaling more than $5 billion. Vallourec Star is set to expand its operations by building an $81.6 million steel pipe threading plant. Pennant Midstream recently began operating a $375 million Natural Gas Processing Plant in Southern Mahoning County. Dearing Compressor and Pump, which currently employs 180 people, also recently announced plans to expand its plant for the third time in 10 years. All these projects – and numerous others – have contributed to a 17 percent increase in sales tax apportionment since 2010 and have helped reduce unemployment by more than five percent in the area.
These economic benefits were certainly not lost on elected officials or voters. As Democratic Councilwoman Annie Gillam said, “I’m glad they voted against this.” Butch Taylor, business manager for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396, said,
“This is a great margin of victory, and after the fourth time the message should be clear. Hopefully we can move on and work together for the positive things — safety, a clean environment and the opportunities for job creation.”
However, losing for the fourth time in a row with the biggest margin yet doesn’t seem to have sunk in for the anti-fracking activists. As one member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee vowed, “We don’t lose until we quit and we won’t quit because this is too important.”
Youngstown activists clearly want to end the jobs and opportunities that shale development is bringing to the area, but the voters saw right through that. The only question is: will the activists force taxpayers of the city to weigh in once again on this widely-opposed measure?