Frack issue attracts spending

A skilled trade union opposed to a ballot issue that could choke off the development of natural gas drilling and related industry in Youngstown has spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to defeat the measure.

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 – part of the larger Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment, a group that came out in April against the measure that would amend the city’s charter – spent $58,300 so far in an effort to defeat the issue.

The group supporting the changes to the charter spent nearly 40 times less.

All of the money spent by Local 396, according to a financial report filed with the Mahoning County Board of Elections, was spent on media advertisement. The funding is from the union’s general fund, not from its political action committee.

The report filed last week covers spending through April 17. Spending through the May 7 election will be shown on reports due June 14.

Messages left seeking comment were not immediately returned Monday from Roland Taylor, Local 396 financial secretary and Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building Trades, of which Local 396 is a member.

Members of the coalition, formed by political and business leaders to oppose the amendment as well as promote the oil and gas industry, say it would hurt existing well owners and sends the wrong message to companies in the drilling industry that want to do business here.

Placed on the ballot by groups that have concerns over the effects drilling may have on the environment in Youngstown, the changes to the charter would include banning hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas, in the city.

The amendment also would ban the transportation of oilfield waste through Youngstown, prohibit the creation of pipelines and other midstream facilities and ban corporations from using other corporations to take water from any surface in Youngstown to use in extracting shale gas or oil in the city.

Backers of the charter amendment, Community Bill of Rights Committee, spent $1,415 over the reporting cycle and has $3,043 to spend in the week leading to Election Day.

The largest expenditure was for $847 for yard signs and second, $525 for two billboards, according to the reports.