Ohio is referred to as a “battleground state” due to its status as a “swing state” in presidential elections. But another important battle is brewing in the Buckeye State, also set to be settled in the voting booth.
This battle centers around a “Community Bill of Rights” referendum in Mansfield, OH and will be voted on in a simple “yes/no” manner. Mansfield is a city with roughly 48,000 citizens located 80 miles southwest of Cleveland and 66 miles northeast of Columbus, right in the heart of the Utica Shale basin.
Eric Belcastro, the Pennsylvania Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), explained the rationale behind the “Bill of Rights” push in a blog post:
Faced with the permitting of two 5,000 foot deep injection wells in Mansfield by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)…[t]he amendment would drive a community Bill of Rights into Mansfield's charter and then prohibit the injection of fracking wastewater on grounds that such prohibition is necessary to secure and protect those community rights. The amendment also recognizes corporate “rights” as subordinate to the rights of the people of Mansfield, as well as recognizing the rights of residents, natural communities, and ecosystems to clean air and water.
The ODNR, in a study published in March 2012, linked the 12 earthquakes that have occured in Youngstown, Ohio to injection wells located in the city.
Though the “Bill of Rights” has the full support of the City Council and the Law Director, as well as the city's newspaper, the Mansfield News Journal, one faction in particular isn't such a big fan of the Bill of Rights: the oil and gas industry. In response to the upcoming referrendum vote, the industry has launched an 11th hour astroturf campaign to “win hearts and minds” of those voters still on the fence as it pertains to the “Bill of Rights” in the week before the election.
DeSmogBlog has obtained images of flyers distributed via a well-coordinated direct mail campaign conducted by the oil and gas industry in Mansfield, made public here for the first time in an exclusive investigation.