Frack Me

Not everyone is saying “not in my backyard”:

On Tuesday, voters in Youngstown, Ohio, gave the fracking industry carte blanche to continue pumping chemicals into the ground beneath them and pumping natural gas out. A city charter amendment that would have outlawed hydraulic fracturing in the city was rejected by voters, with the unofficial final vote tally showing 3,821 votes against and 2,880 in favor. The ballot measure would also have banned new pipelines in the city and prevented oil-field waste from being transported through the city.

Philip Bump notices that these battles are increasingly happening in municipalities rather than at the state or federal level:

Dryden sits in the Finger Lakes region of New York, just east of Cayuga Lake. It’s a region that’s dependent on tourists who come for the beautiful foliage in the fall and pristine water in the summer. Which is why opinions on fracking in the region have been split — the threat of pollution in the lakes hard to offset with the promise of jobs. Less so Youngstown, Ohio. Youngstown, a city hit hard by the collapse of the steel industry, has hard a hard time regaining its footing.

Adam Briggle encourages more local control over the allocation of fracking permits:

The view from local places is far more accurate: fracking is like Frankenstein’s monster, an unholy creature out of sync with the order of things. The local perspective is the more human one. It is from this angle that the most important questions come into focus: what can happen in my neighbourhood and what will it do to my children, my lungs, and my water? That’s the stuff of local government and that’s why its power should trump state and federal laws.

But this is not about saying “no” to fracking as much as it is about simply having a say. It is only at the local scale of political activity that we can genuinely exercise “public freedom,” the capacity to take part in the decisions that directly affect our lives. If a well is planned near your home or your child’s school, you ought to be involved in that decision, and local government is the only political institution that will be responsive. Take it from those in unincorporated areas living near wells governed only by the bare bones rules of state agencies concerned primarily with getting the minerals out of the ground. If you don’t live in an area with police and zoning powers, you are treated not as a person in a place but as a node on a network.