A Charter for the County of Athens, Ohio
- to protect, through the power of home rule, the County’s waters and the health of its people from the threat of contamination by fracking wastes from neighboring states
The proposed Charter will be put before the voters in November, 2017; it does two things.
1. It gives to those of us who live in the County, but outside the city of Athens, the right of initiative, referendum and recall.
2. It protects our water supplies, and thus our health and safety.
The rights of Initiative, referendum, and recall are the tools of local democracy. They are rights that are needed to protect us from state and federal government policies and actions which threaten to sacrifice our health and safety, for the benefit of corporate interests.
Initiative is the right of citizens to write our own laws and submit them to our fellow citizens, the voters, for their judgement – necessary when institutions of representative government fail.
Referendum is the right of citizens to vote on issues and laws generated either by the initiative process or by legislative processes. (It allows our county commissioners to place an issue on the ballot for the voters to render their judgement. It empowers our local county leaders to take any steps on our behalf not expressly forbidden by state law, instead of being limited to what is specifically authorized by existing law.)
Recall is the right of citizens to petition for the removal of local officials prior to the end of their elected terms . (Such petitions are, like initiatives, submitted to the voters for their judgement. Recall is only necessary in response to egregious failure of elected officials, failure which may threaten citizen well-being. We are fortunate in Athens County to have enjoyed, for the most part, excellent leadership by our elected officials, but exceptions could arise.)
Article X, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution permits counties to adopt a charter form of government in order to claim these rights. Two of Ohio’s 88 counties, Cayahoga and Summit, are already charter counties. The proposed charter does not change any other aspects of county government function. It seeks only to claim these rights and to protect the county’s water supplies.
The proposed Charter contains a bill of rights, claiming the right to clean air, water, and soil, and the right to be free from chemical trespass by toxic substances. It protects water supplies with two specific prohibitions:
1. The Charter prohibits deposition of materials (wastes) from high volume, horizontal, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale oil and gas. These materials are known to contain toxins. The processes of transport and injection have a history of accidents which cause exposure of people to these toxins, and the casings of the wells into which they are injected themselves are known to deteriorate over time so that toxins are released, endangering the aquifers which produce our drinking water.
2. The Charter prohibits the taking of water from any source within the County for high volume, hydraulic fracturing for extraction of shale gas and oil. Water is precious. Potable water is essential for life and for a sound economy. We are blessed in this part of the country with abundant water, but it must not be put at risk or used unwisely. Potable water will become increasingly precious in the coming years, and must be protected. It is essential for our future.
In view of the failure of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources either to prohibit or effectively regulate injection wells, and of the plans being made by an out-of-state private corporation to increase greatly the volume of fracking wastes to be brought into Athens County from neighboring states, this proposed charter offers a way for the County to protect itself and its people.
READ THE FULL CHARTER TEXT HERE