- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that an anti-fracking measure in Youngstown must be put back on fall ballots.

In a unanimous decision last week, the high court said the Mahoning County Board of Elections lacked the authority not to certify an anti-fracking charter amendment and so must put it back on the Nov. 3 ballot.

In their decision, justices said the board of elections does “not have authority to sit as arbiters of the legality or constitutionality of a ballot measure’s substantive terms,” The Youngstown Vindicator reported (https://bit.ly/1Wiznm5 ).

The city argued that the board acted illegally by refusing to put the citizen-initiative charter amendment on the ballot, and officials said they’re happy with the court’s decision.

“This was about the separation of powers,” city law director Martin Hume said. “The board made a decision that should be the responsibility of the judicial branch.”

The board says it largely based its decision on a Feb. 17 Supreme Court decision that the Ohio Constitution’s home-rule amendment doesn’t grant local governments the power to regulate oil and gas operations in their limits.

“While opinions were expressed at our meeting that the issue was unenforceable and unconstitutional, we did not make that determination,” said Mark Munroe, elections board chairman. “The Supreme Court had already made that determination in the (Feb. 17) case. As a result, we felt the petitions that were circulated were invalid. However, the (court has) ruled and (has) brought additional clarity to the right of initiative process to amend city charters.”

FrackFree Mahoning Valley has placed the “Community Bill of Rights,” which would ban fracking in the city, among other things, on the city ballot twice in both 2013 and 2014. It failed all four times.

Similar charter amendments effectively banning hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas by prohibiting fracking-related development projects were offered this fall in three other Ohio counties. They were decertified in a separate decision by the state elections chief, whose action in those cases was upheld by the high court.

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Information from: The Vindicator, https://www.vindy.com

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