On Tuesday, voters in Youngstown, Ohio, gave the fracking industry carte blanche to continue pumping chemicals into the ground beneath them and pumping natural gas out.
A city charter amendment that would have outlawed hydraulic fracturing in the city was rejected by voters, with the unofficial final vote tally showing 3,821 votes against and 2,880 in favor. The ballot measure would also have banned new pipelines in the city and prevented oil-field waste from being transported through the city.
A fracking boom is underway in Ohio, especially in its east, where Youngstown is located. But the boom has not brought with it many jobs for Ohioans, despite promises otherwise, as most of the work is being done by specialists who’ve come in from other states. It has, however, brought with it water pollution problems.
Opposition to the ballot measure was spearheaded by a business-backed group calling itself Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment. That group was formed especially to defeat the ballot measure, and it easily outspent the measure’s backers. In campaigning, the business group had described the ballot measure as unconstitutional, far-reaching, and unenforceable, and claimed it would send the wrong kind of message to the business community.
Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Community Bill of Rights Committee that supported the amendment, said, “It’s a sad day for democracy. With the resources we had, it was an incredible effort, but we were outspent by the opponents.”
But this isn’t the end for the committee, many of whom also are members of Frack Free Youngstown.
“We’re going to have to work a little harder the next time,” said Beiersdorfer, who also won the Green Party’s primary Tuesday for Youngstown council president. “We’ll be back. We’ll regroup and figure out what we’re doing. We’re going to continue to fight to protect health and public safety.”
“With tonight’s vote, the people of Youngstown have announced that the city is open for business,” Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber President Tom Humphries said in a statement after the votes were tallied. Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said the results demonstrated “the voters had no sympathy for those who want to hold us back.”
The city is open alright — wide open and ready for the injection of fracking chemicals.