It wasn't until studies were showing that fracking operations may cause seismic activity that John Spon, Law Director of Mansfield, Ohio, decided it was time to take action.
In 2012, Spon and the city of Mansfield passed a municipal Bill of Rights and used those rights to ban fracking and injection well use within city limits. This Bill of Rights is similar to that of Athens’ proposed Bill of Rights otherwise known as Issue 7, to be voted on on Nov. 4, which will ultimately prevent water contamination and other disasters if it is passed.
Spon travelled to Athens to speak with residents about Mansfield’s success and how to proceed with the city’s proposed Bill of Rights on Oct. 23. He stressed the importance of the people’s involvement and encouraged them to learn more about fracking.
“I think it’s important for the people to make the decision, not the law director, not the mayor, the people,” said Spon. “So we put it on our ballot and it passed 63 to 37 percent.”
So far, Mansfield has been victorious in successfully stopping companies like Preferred Fluid Management from building injection wells within city limits because the Bill of Rights allows the city council to veto any new proposals.
Mansfield’s Bill of Rights also insists that any new proposal have, in writing, how far the company believes the fluid is going to migrate, as well as what they are going to inject into the ground, specifically what chemicals and other toxins should they assume will be in the fluid. It also requires that the proposal be in affidative form, basically swearing under oath that the information they are giving is the truth.
“If they [fracking companies] think the city is just going to sit back and not prosecute them, seek a felony and go after corporate execs then they are dreaming,” Spon said. “They can hire as many attorneys as they want but, there is nothing more important than the voice of this people.”
Spon gave many examples of how these companies often step out of line without any federal punishment. He explained that if your home is damaged or your water is contaminated because of fracking waste, it is very difficult to prove in court.
“If you don’t know what chemicals are put into the ground how do you know if those chemicals are what’s causing the contamination to the water?” asked Spon.
Milena Miller, resident of Athens, agrees with Spon, saying the Bill of Rights will help Athens’ be proactive against threats like these.
“I want my rights protected, my water protected, before an accident happens,” Miller said. “It's critical that we pass this so we can take it to the next level.”
Spon also by brought up the point that the standard home insurance policy does not cover any damage to property caused by fracking waste or earthquakes caused by fracking that lead to damage of the property.
“We aren’t saying this industry can never exist,” Spon said. “when the time comes, and you can show us how it can be done safely some may be willing to listen. But until then, we are not up for sale.”
Listen to John Spon's radio interview with WOUB's Tom Hodson.