Fracking forum held in Salem

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The Communities United for Responsible Energy campaign came to Salem Wednesday evening, with an aim to educate residents and lawmakers about fracking.

The panel was set up by Ohio’s Organizing Collaborative and there were just a few people in attendance.

The Salem Planning Commission already has approved an ordinance aiming to ban fracking in areas not zoned “heavy industrial.” The measure still has to be voted on by City Council.

Councilman Clyde Brown expects the measure will pass and feels it should go further, but he doesn’t think much will come of it.

“If you’re gonna eliminate it in one section because of all the residential neighborhoods, it should be eliminated everywhere in the city. However, we can still pass the ordinance, it won’t make a difference. The state can still issue a permit,” Brown said.

House Bill 278, enacted on Sept. 16, 2004, repealed all statutory authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas exploration and operation.

Panel member Vanessa Pesec with the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability said they should consider “community rights” based bans, which are voted on by the residents, if they want to regulate fracking.

“Either through a ballot initiative or if you have a well educated council or townships with home rule, they can do that,” Pesec said.

Youngstown voters defeated a fracking ban in May, but supporters of a Community Bill of Rights are in the process of having it put back on the ballot in November.

Also speaking at Wednesday’s forum was Ted Auch with the organization FrackTracker. The non-profit aims to enhance the public’s understanding of fracking impacts through research and data collection. He urged people to work together if they want a change.

“They need to break down walls between intra-county groups and start to utilize their data,” Auch said.

Not everyone agreed with the information presented. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s Mike Chadsey said the meeting lacked factual statements.

“When you don’t actually list off regulatory code or you misunderstand regulatory code and say things like you aren’t regulated under regulatory code, that’s a responsibility you need to have,” Chadsey said.

Two people impacted by fracking also spoke at the forum.

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