Fracking issue fails

YOUNGSTOWN – Voters in the city seemed unfazed by arguments that fracking is dangerous to their health as they defeated a charter amendment Tuesday that would have outlawed the process and taken other steps as well.

Incomplete and unofficial results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections showed the measure failing 57 percent percent of voters against to 43 percent in favor. Some provisional and mail-in ballots have yet to be counted.

The amendment would have banned the process of hydraulic fracturing in trying to extract natural gas from the ground.

It also would have banned transportation of oil field waste through the city, ban creation of pipelines and other midstream facilities, and ban corporations from using other corporations to engage in extraction of water from any surface in Youngstown for use in extracting shale gas or oil in the city limits, along with other restrictions.

Opposition groups had questioned whether such a ban could be enforced had it passed because drilling in Ohio is regulated by the state, not muncipalities. Activists supporting the proposal disagreed.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who attended the ribbon cutting in Youngstown for the new Exterran plant, where equipment used in the natural gas and oil well drilling industry will be fabricated, downplayed the ballot issue before voters there Tuesday.

He called movements like the one in Youngstown and elsewhere in Ohio ”scattered opposition.”

”This is a state that is openly embracing this,” said Kasich, a Republican. ”We’ll see what the people of the city do, but I don’t spend any time worrying about this because at the end of the day, there is massive support for the development of oil and gas in the state of Ohio and the jobs connect to it and that is what matters most.”

Drilling near Youngstown primarily has involved deep-injection wells in which wastewater from fracking and other forms of drilling is deposited.

Tom Cvetkovich, who was a supporter of the amendment, said he was dismayed because he believed the campaign was taken over by money pumped in from groups who opposed the measure.

”It’s a sad day for democracy when outside forces can control what’s going on,” Cvetkovich said.

In April, a group calling itself the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment formed to oppose the amendment. Made up of business and political leaders in the region, they claim the amendment would hurt existing well owners and send the wrong message to companies looking to do business here that specialize in drilling.

One of the members of that group, Alan Wegner, a local attorney, said he respects the questions the people who proposed the amendment have and that monitoring the industry is a key to make sure health and safety is in the forefront.

But he added the amendment as worded was poorly written and should not have been approved.

”I think the voters made the right decision,” Wegner said.

Cvetkovich said amendment supporters will still be watching closely.

”We’ll be back,” he said.