The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled yesterday that the Mahoning County Board of Elections must place a proposed city charter amendment—the so-called “Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights”—on the May 2018 ballot, which includes several anti-fracking provisions. State ex rel. Khumprakob v. Mahoning Cty. Bd. of Elections, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-1602. According to the Court, “[t]he proposed amendment, if adopted by Youngtown’s electors, would in general terms (1) recognize certain rights of Youngstown residents and of ‘ecosystems and natural communities within the city’ to ‘clean water, air, and soil’ and to be free from certain fossil-fuel drilling and extraction activities, (2) require the city to prosecute violations of the amendment and allow the city to recover attorney fees and expert costs incurred in prosecuting violations, (3) impose strict liability on any government or corporation that violates the rights established by the amendment, (4) restrict the use of funds allocated to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, and (5) give the people of Youngstown the right ‘to compel their governments to protect their rights, health, and safety.’” Id. at ¶1. The Mahoning County Board of Elections previously voted not to place the proposed amendment on the ballot believing the proposed amendment contained provisions beyond the city’s power to enact. Id. at 2. The Court disagreed and found the proposed amendment’s provisions are “vague and largely aspirational” and “do nothing without further legislative action by the city.” Id. at ¶8. Thus, the Mahoning County Board of Elections abused its discretion in finding that the measure exceeds the city’s legislation power. Id.
The entirety of the Court’s decision can be read here.