Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ohio Residents File Class Action Lawsuit Against State & Fracking Corps



BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, OH:  Today, residents of Broadview Heights, Ohio, filed a first-in-the-state class action lawsuit against the State of Ohio, Governor John R. Kasich, and Bass Energy, Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corp.  The lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of the people of Broadview Heights to self-governance, including their right to ban fracking.

In November 2012, residents of Broadview Heights overwhelmingly adopted a Home Rule Charter Amendment – proposed by residents – banning all new commercial extraction of gas and oil within the City limits.  The Amendment establishes aCommunity Bill of Rights – which secures the rights of human and natural communities to water and a healthy environment.  The Bill of Rights bans fracking and frack waste disposal as a violation of those rights.

In June 2014, Bass Energy and Ohio Valley Energy filed a lawsuit against the City of Broadview Heights to overturn the Community Bill of Rights.  The corporations are contending that the community does not have the legal authority to protect itself from fracking, and that corporations have the constitutional “right” to frack.

Residents involved in drafting and proposing the Community Bill of Rights attempted to intervene in the lawsuit, to defend the community’s right to self-governance, including the right to say “no” to fracking and other threats.  However, in September, the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County denied the motion to intervene, ruling that the residents did not have a direct “interest” in this case.

With the court’s denial of intervention, residents decided to move forward with the class action lawsuit.  In filing the lawsuit, Broadview Heights residents argue that the Ohio Oil and Gas Act, known as HB 278, and the industry’s enforcement of the Act, violate the constitutional right of residents to local self-government.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted residents of Broadview Heights to draft the Community Bill of Rights.  CELDF is providing its support and expertise to the residents of Broadview Heights with the filing of the class action lawsuit.

CELDF Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, Esq., stated, “This class action lawsuit is merely the first in Ohio, and expected to be one of many filed by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to govern their own communities are routinely violated by state governments working in concert with the corporations that they ostensibly regulate.  The people of Broadview Heights will not stand idly by as their rights are negotiated away by oil and gas corporations, their state government, and their own municipal government.”  The residents of Lafayette, Colorado, filed a similar lawsuit in August of this year.

Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights.  This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish Rights of Nature in law, as well as the first communities to elevate the rights of communities above the “rights” of corporations.

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