Central Ohio residents have the opportunity to take direct action to safeguard our water, though we must act fast. The opportunity is through support of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights, the proposed city ordinance that affirms our inalienable rights to protect our community from the harmful effects of fracking and associated activities. Two factors necessitate prompt action: the March 2017 deadline to submit petition signatures demonstrating widespread support of the initiative; and the threat posed by the injection wells currently in our watershed area.
Thirteen injection wells, each containing toxic and radioactive wastes, are tucked into the watershed area that supplies water to the Columbus region. The industry assures us that these wells, located north of Columbus, are safely buried deep under the earth and will never leak. The data shows that injection wells around the country do leak and thereby pose grave dangers to nearby communities. Despite the catastrophic risks of injection wells in watersheds, and in farmlands, valleys and forests across the state, Ohio continues to produce and import fracking waste without regard to residents’ health and safety or their rights to protect to their communities. This must change.
The Columbus Community Bill of Rights asserts Columbus residents’ inalienable rights to pure water as well as clean air, safe soil and the right to say “no” to fracking. Central Ohioans may assume that as Americans, indeed, as human beings, we already have these basic rights. Suggesting otherwise is the State of Ohio which continues to award fracking permits, and fiercely defend them, even under fervent local opposition. State officials justify their actions by citing precedents that allow state laws to supersede local laws. When the issue is fracking, the Columbus Community Bill of Rights fundamentally rejects this notion.
Drawing from both the United States Declaration of Independence and the Ohio Constitution, the Columbus Community Bill of Rights upholds the principle that “All political power is inherent in the people.” The proposed ordinance further affirms that citizens have, as our founding documents declare, “certain inalienable rights” that include “enjoying and defending life and liberty,” and “seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.” The Columbus Community Bill of Rights argues, therefore, that state authorities may not dismiss the will of local citizens who seek to safeguard their natural resources and fully exercise their inalienable rights. In accordance with our nation’s and state’s founding documents, Columbus residents have the right to protect the health and safety of our community from the hazards of fracking.
All Central Ohioans have a stake in fracking and its associated activities around Columbus, a point that the thirteen injection wells in our shared watershed area make abundantly clear. The Columbus Community Bill of Rights provides local citizens an opportunity to take action to protect our water, air and soil. To read the text of the Columbus Community Bill of Rights, locate where registered Columbus voters may sign the petition, and learn how you can help, see www.columbusbillofrights.org.
As a community, we can claim our inalienable rights to protect our family, friends, neighbors and natural environment. To ensure our claim secures a place on the ballot, however, we must act fast.