In the 1970s, the oil and gas industry started lobbying in Columbus for legislation that would exempt it from maintaining clean air and water standards and other environmental safety measures. It wanted the future right to unobstructed drilling.
Residents of charted cities and villages or statutory cities in Ohio can compose and circulate an initiative petition detailing a local Bill of Rights providing for certain rights and, equally as important, certain prohibitions. Residents need the right to know, as well: to know about threats and what can be done about them.
Kent residents are fortunate to live in a chartered city. The Kent Environmental Rights Group, with the help of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, has composed such a Bill of Rights and hopes to obtain enough signatures on its petitions from Kent voters to get the Bill of Rights on the November ballot as a Kent City Charter amendment.
If the amendment is enacted, residents of Kent will gain the collective right to protect their air and water, particularly the right to keep their famous high-quality water safe from either fracking drilling operations or fracking waste injection.
Some issues are politically partisan. KERG's initiative is not. The effort to amend the Kent City Charter comes down to a simple question: Do Kent residents want control over their local environment, particularly the quality of their shower and coffee water? KERG members are currently gathering signatures of registered Kent voters, with 2,000 signatures as their goal. If enough signatures are validated, Kent voters can choose to add the Bill of Rights to the Kent City Charter in November. KERG hopes that Kent voters say "Yes!"
Mim Jackson, Kent