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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Judge Overturns Broadview Heights Ban on Drilling

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 at 9:32 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY TISH O'DELL
Following similar judicial orders of late, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Astrab ruled that Bass Energy of Fairlawn and Ohio Valley Energy of Austintown, among other such outfits, will be allowed to drill new wells in Broadview Heights. 

The ruling is notable not only for its timely complement to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Munroe Falls decision, but also because Broadview Heights was one of a handful of Ohio cities that had a voter-approved Community Bill of Rights in its charter. That ballot issue reserved residents’ rights to clean air and water and, i.e., banned oil and gas drilling from its point of passage onward. Bass Energy and Ohio Valley Energy sued the city, challenging that charter amendment.

Astrab’s ruling puts the right to permit and regulate new drilling operations in the hands of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, mirroring the recent state ruling and further entrenching the precedent.

“We now see that at least one court is not prepared to uphold our right to protect our health and safety,” community organizer Tish O’Dell said. “Instead, the court prohibited our city from protecting us. If no branch of our government is going to protect us from these corporate harms, then our government has ceased to be legitimate.”

At this point, Ohioans have pretty much heard it all from their elected leaders at the local, state and federal levels. They’re against drilling! They’re for drilling! More and more, though, the lure of the short-run pretty penny has proved hard to resist. ODNR, the agency in charge of overseeing and regulating our state’s natural resources, has become the benevolent gatekeeper, kowtowing to industry demands.

Last fall, Bass Energy President William Hlavlin told The Broadview Journal, “We are just suing for the right to do what we do. We feel the city is denying our rights. We have a permit from the state. We just want to finish our project and leave.”

No one was really disputing that. Scene presented a look at the drilling industry’s current Ohio boom cycle back in February, reporting on the transiency of these corporations’ drilling work. Even though signing away residents’ rights is a long-term decision from local and state courts, the actual drilling is not. Industry moves onto the next play, packing up and leaving the environmental consequences to the people to live there.

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