To the editor:
On Jan. 26, the Court of Appeals, Cleveland, considered a suit brought against the state of Ohio by Mothers Against Drilling in Our Neighborhood intended to uphold a popular vote in their city of Broadview Heights to prevent further fracking in the city. In its 13 square miles, Broadview Heights already has 90 wells.
Broadview Heights was earlier sued over the frack well prohibition in its Community Bill of Rights, which was approved by voters. It lost in court, in part, because city lawyers failed to make an appropriate defense of the law. MADION was denied the opportunity to intervene. So they sued.
On Wednesday the plaintiffs made the same argument in their previous case, that state law preempts local law. But this time, the people were able to present their argument. Representing MADION, Terry Lodge argued that inalienable rights, claimed at any level, cannot be overturned by any law, federal or state, making the question of preemption irrelevant. The judges must decide if rights claimed qualify as inalienable rights.
The right claimed is the right to local community self-government, in this case, to protect citizens’ health and safety by preventing further drilling in Broadview Heights. The court must decide whether to recognize the right of communities to take local action to protect from the harms of pollution. A 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court decision prohibited Munroe Falls from using local zoning laws to impose limits to oil and gas drilling in their city, but this is the first time an Ohio court has been asked to consider this matter as a question of the fundamental right to local self-government.
In this case the court is being asked to declare the exclusive authority over drilling given to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by the state, an unconstitutional infringement of citizen rights.
Will corporate rights to profit be found to overrule our rights to a safe and healthy environment? Or will we be able to protect ourselves against activities harmful to our health and safety?