As the Athens County Charter campaign is picking up speed, the Bill of Rights Committee has put forward a brochure with answers to frequently asked questions. The charter form of government would give residents of Athens County a broader range of self-determination than the current form does. The petition to get it on the November ballot requires 1440 signatures from voting-age Athens County by June 24 (follow this link for a PDF of the Petition with a signature list).
ATHENS COUNTY CHARTER AND BILL OF RIGHTS FAQs
A PDF Version in brochure format can be downloaded here.
Don’t let big business hold us over a barrel!
A County Charter is a form of self-government where every citizen enjoys the rights of initiative, referendum, and recall. It takes back our rights stolen by the legislature in Columbus, and returns them to the people and their elected representatives, who have been stripped of their power to represent us.
- Why does Athens County need a County Charter?
Current state law grants sole authority for permitting and regulating injection wells to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which has a history of ignoring local health and safety concerns. The purpose of the charter is to establish and exercise our right to local self-government as guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution, and to use this authority to protect our water, land and air from state-sanctioned industrial pollution.
- Do the citizens of Athens have the authority to propose a Charter for Athens County by Initiative Petition?
Yes. Article 10 of the Ohio Constitution states: “The legislative authority of any county, upon petition of 10% of the electors of the county, shall forthwith … submit to the electors … the question of the adoption of a charter.” Summit and Cuyahoga Counties already operate under a charter form of government, and a Charter and Bill of Rights similar to ours is being proposed in Meigs and Medina Counties.
- Why don’t existing regulations guarantee safe disposal of fracking wastes?
Regulations in Ohio are weak, and companies are often allowed to continue operations despite repeated violations. Ohio regularly fails to report these violations to the public. But nationwide, according to ProPublica, between 2008 and 2010, 60,467 out of 150,851 Class 2 injection wells were cited for violations including leaks, water contamination and inadequate mechanical integrity.
- Is there evidence that fracking waste may contain harmful substances?
Yes. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that horizontal hydro-fracking flowback may contain dangerous levels of lead, arsenic, benzene, methanol, naphthalene, trimethyl benzene, and/or radioactive compounds. Injected flowback materials can seep into aquifers and drinking water, and can pollute the air when allowed to evaporate in open pits, such as the Ginsburg injection well in Alexander Township.
- Will the Charter ban the use of all Class 2 injection wells?
No. The charter will only ban the use of Class 2 injection wells for disposal of wastes produced by horizontal hydro-fracking in Athens County, including government-owned land within the county.
- Is there evidence that injection wells can cause earthquakes?
Yes. the US Geological Survey has linked injection wells with increased seismic activity all across the country, from Youngstown, Ohio, to Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and California.
- Will the Charter abolish or change any existing laws, contracts and resolutions in Athens County?
No. All will continue as before, and all offices, departments and employees will remain in place.
- Can federal and state laws be used to override laws passed by counties, including this Charter?
It won’t be easy because the Charter includes a Bill of Rights. The Charter is like a Constitution. Its purpose is to protect the people from government abuse. To override this charter, federal and state governments must argue in court that their right to generate revenues and profits from injection wells is more important than the people’s civil right to live in a clean, safe and healthy community.
- Will adopting the Charter give county commissioners power over city and village governments?
No. County and municipal powers are separate. When they conflict, municipal powers shall prevail. Furthermore, the charter will secure for residents of unincorporated parts of townships the same initiative and referendum rights as residents of incorporated municipalities, which they do not have under current law.
- Will I keep all of my property rights under the Charter form of government?
Yes, with two exceptions. You will not be allowed to dump wastes from horizontal hydro-fracking, or take water for horizontal hydro-fracking on or from your property, because those activities place the health and safety of your neighbors at risk.
- How will the Charter impact our local economy?
Agriculture, tourism, forestry and higher education are vital to our local economy. Each depends on the natural beauty and abundant natural resources that the county offers. The charter will help us secure our economic future by empowering local residents to protect our natural resources from enforced industrial pollution.
- Will the Charter ban the taking of water from any source in Athens County for use in deep shale horizontal hydro-fracking?
- Can the County be sued if the Charter is passed?
Yes, and if that occurs, the County Prosecutor will become a Public Defender 🙂
- Where can I read the proposed Charter?