In February 2013, the City Council of Youngstown, Ohio agreed to include on its ballot a proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city limits after an anti-fracking organization, Frackfree Mahoning Valley, collected sufficient signatures for a successful petition. The unofficial results of the election held on May 7, 2013 show voters rejected this proposal by a significant margin: 57 percent opposing the proposal vs. 43 percent supporting the proposal.

In Youngstown, the proposal resulted in an unusual alliance of interest groups united in their opposition to the ban. The local business community actively campaigned against the proposal and argued this prohibition and the litigation likely to arise from the ban would have prompted companies to reevaluate their decisions to invest and expand in the area. Likewise, organized labor opposed the proposal arguing the prohibition would have negatively impacted the economic recovery of the community.

This debate over hydraulic fracturing is increasingly on display in local level elections as anti-fracking organizations pursue similar proposals to ban or otherwise restrict operations within resource-rich eastern Ohio. In November 2012, voters in Mansfield and Broadview Heights approved proposals to amend their city charters to permit the regulation of injection wells capable of storing waste associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. In Athens, an organization named the Bill of Rights Committee is collecting signatures to put the issue on the upcoming November ballot as a referendum.

Ohio sits atop the gas-rich Utica Shale formation and will likely remain a key battleground for the legal and political struggle over hydraulic fracturing. State officials anticipate the development of this formation will generate much-needed tax revenue and employment opportunities for the region.


This post was prepared by Ted Bosquez (tbosquez@fulbright.com or 724 416 0423) from Fulbright’s Environmental Law Practice Group.