According to unofficial election results, an overwhelming majority of Athens city voters voted "yes" on Issue 7 with 78 percent of the vote, or 2, 245 votes out of 2, 868.
Issue 7, put forth by the Athens Community Bill of Rights Committee, bans all hydraulic fracturing (fracking), drilling and transportation of waste from fracking within the Athens city limits.
Dick McGinn, spokesperson for the Athens BORC, celebrated the victory with other committee members and supporters at the West End Ciderhouse on Tuesday evening after getting the results.
"This means that Athens says we do not want fracking inside our city. We want a bill of rights. We want the right to local self-government. Thank you, everybody, " McGinn told the assembled BORC supporters.
City Law Director Pat Lang sent out a short statement via email about the fracking ban on Tuesday morning.
"The fracking ban is the law in the City of Athens. I have spoken with Mayor Wiehl, who assures me the city will enforce it. If challenged in court, the city will defend it, " Lang said.
Lang has previously said that the city could face litigation if a fracking ban was enacted.
Athens was the only city in Ohio to pass a municipal fracking ban this election cycle. Voters in three other cities - Youngstown, Gates Mills and Kent - did not pass their proposed bans on the Nov. 4 ballot; for Youngstown, this is the fourth failed attempt to pass a Community Bill of Rights/fracking ban within the city limits.
Other Ohio cities that have passed "Bill of Rights" fracking bans include Oberlin, Cincinnati, Broadview Heights and Yellow Springs.
Issue 7 states that the bill of rights initiative calls for the establishment of a "community bill of rights for residents and natural communities of Athens and to protect those rights by prohibiting shale gas and oil extraction and related activities, and by elevating the rights and governance of the people of Athens over those privileges bestowed on certain extracting corporations."
Ohio Revised Code reserves all regulation of oil and gas activities, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and injection wells to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, so any effort by local governments to regulate these activities likely will result in legal action by the state, and possibly by the industry and affected oil and gas rights holders, as well. In the past, Lang has suggested that these may not be idle threats.
However, one overriding factor will be whether, in fact, anyone applies for a state permit to a deep-shale oil or gas well in Athens. It's still an open question whether the fracking boom that's happening in eastern Ohio - and as close as Washington County to Athens' northeast - will continue into Athens County.
Even then, however, fracking wastewater disposal, via deep injection wells, isn't limited by the geology that might discourage actual fracking. Already, several injection wells are operating in Athens County, though none are near the city limits.
A court case in the northeast Ohio village of Munroe Falls has challenged the state law reserving jurisdiction to the ODNR, though no decision has been rendered as of yet. The case was argued before the Ohio Supreme Court last February. It involves the village's contention that home rule should allow it to zone drilling activities away from residential areas. The decision in this case won't necessarily affect the state law, if the ruling is narrowly focused on zoning issues, Munroe Falls' main line of legal attack.
BORC member Milena Miller said Tuesday evening after the Issue 7 victory that the challenge to fracking ban via zoning is different than what the Athens Community Bill of Rights provides Athens.