In a demonstration of the growing trend in favor of local control over fracking siting decisions, the citizens of the cities of Longmont, CO, and Mansfield and Broadview Heights, OH, voted on Tuesday in support of measures that would ban or otherwise limit fracking and related activities within their borders.
Almost 60% of Longmont’s citizens voted in favor of so-called Ballot Question 300, which approved a charter amendment that bans fracking, as well as storage of fracking wastes, within city limits. The measure overcame extensive and expensive (to the tune of half a million dollars) opposition by the oil and gas industry and local pro-fracking interests. A concerted effort by grassroots activists, particularly a group called Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont pushed the initiative over the finish line. While industry challenges seem likely, this represents a significant first in CO.
Meanwhile, in OH, the citizens of two cities approved the addition of “environmental bills of rights” to their charters. Both measures were drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and in Broadview Heights, it was strongly supported by Mothers Against Drilling in our Neighborhoods. This is indicative of a larger movement amongst communities in Ohio that want to have a voice in the fracking process.
Again, legal challenges may be anticipated, but the passage of these measures is historic and – as in the case of Longmont – certainly evidence of the increasing support in communities across the country for enhanced local control over whether and where fracking is allowed to occur.
In New York, where the courts have so far upheld a broad exercise of local authority over fracking, nearly 150 municipalities have now enacted bans or moratoria on fracking within their borders. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, many dozens of municipalities concerned about protecting their citizens and dictating where fracking should be permitted are eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court's determination as to the extent to which municipalities may do so, which is expected later this year.
With safeguards for fracking at the federal and state levels continuing to fall far short of what is necessary to protect public health and the environment, municipalities should have the right to self-determination. NRDC’s Community Fracking Defense Project supports that principal, and – whether these measures ultimately stand or fall – we are encouraged by the growing public outcry in favor of local home rule.