Group seeks to block fracking-ban amendment

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A group of labor leaders and business owners wants to see an end to ballot issues trying to ban hydraulic fracturing in Youngstown.

The group is calling themselves “Voters for Ballot Integrity.” They believe local elected leaders should be able to keep fracking opponents from going back to the ballot for a fifth time after four previous attempts to amend Youngstown’s charter failed.

Members of the group claim thousands in tax dollars are being wasted every time groups like Frack Free Mahoning Valley mount another effort.

“Why do we have to put up this fight? You know, for something that the voters have clearly four times said we don’t want. It is bad legislation. But here we are again, looking at it in November. We have better things to spend our time on, like our schools,” Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO member Bill Padisak said.

Padisak and the others say since the state controls oil and natural gas drilling, any attempt to ban fracking at the local level can’t be enforced even if it is approved.

“This is shocking. And this should not have to happen. We as small business people, we need to generate jobs, we need to have a vibrant community, because that is what makes our business grow,” Camelot Lanes owner Bob Smith said.

However, Youngstown Mayor John McNally said as long as supporters collect enough valid signatures, the city would be required to put it on the ballot and let voters decide.

“In respect to the mayor, I just do believe that there is more that the city, the county, can do,” Butch Taylor of the local Plumbers and Pipefitters Union said.

For starters, members of the group believe elected leaders and others should do more to educate the community that a ban on hydraulic fracturing would hurt the Valley’s economy as a whole.

“Maybe it will win on number 43. And we will still be here fighting to protect the health and safety of the community,” John Williams of Frack Free Mahoning Valley said.

While a member of Ohio’s Green Party said it will now be taking the anti-fracking message to state lawmakers in Columbus, those supporting the oil and gas industry stress voters simply need to say no to signing petitions to put the issue back on the ballot in Youngstown.

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