By BOB DOWNING
Published: April 13, 2015 published in the Akron Beacon Journal
A Medina County grass-roots group is launching a drive to adopt a new county charter with a community rights that might be used to block a planned natural gas pipeline.
The plan, if adopted, would be a first in Ohio.
The new group, Sustainable Medina County, intends to circulate petitions in order to get the charter on the November ballot. About 4,900 signatures will be needed.
Those petitions are being finalized. The deadline to submit them is in June.
The current structure of Medina County government would remain intact under the proposed charter, but the charter would give the county’s elected officials the authority to protect residents from corporate harm.
In addition, the people’s right to initiative and referendum would be codified under the plan to give them more control.
The group will hold a community kickoff meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 23 at the Medina County Library’s main branch in downtown Medina. Attorney Terry Lodge will be the speaker.
Sustainable Medina County was formed to protect Medina County’s environment and to ensure a healthy ecosystem for today’s residents and future generations, the group said on Monday in outlining its plans.
The group said, “There are no corporate claimed ‘rights’ that include the right to cause harm.”
Group members are contacting county officials to seek their support for the proposal.
“Community rights are growing across the state as more and more communities realize that government agencies that are supposed to protect us, instead protect industries such as gas and oil,” said Emilie Judy of Montville Township.
“We have an inalienable right to protect the places where we live, and Medina County residents are working to codify that right in our county charter,” she said in a statement.
The grass-roots campaign was triggered by the NEXUS Pipeline that would transport natural gas across northern Ohio.
The Medina County effort would mark the first community rights charter campaign in Ohio by the direct initiative of the people, organizers said.
Summit and Cuyahoga counties have charters and both were created through charter commissions, not voter initiatives.
Several Ohio communities have adopted such community bill of rights, in the wake of Utica Shale drilling in eastern Ohio. A judge in Cuyahoga County has ruled that the bill of rights in Broadview Heights conflicts with state law and is not valid.
Other community bills of rights in Ohio that have been adopted have not been challenged in court by drillers.
The Medina County group has been working with the Ohio Community Rights Network and the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense to draft the proper community rights charter language.
The group is very troubled by the Nexus Pipeline that would run 22 miles across Medina County and is unhappy that a compressor station is planned in Medina County.
It would also run 12 miles through New Franklin and Green in Summit County and 19.8 miles through Stark County and six miles through Wayne County.
The request was filed by Houston-based Nexus Gas Transmission LLC in collaboration with Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. and Texas-based Spectra Energy Partners.
The $2 billion project would stretch 250 miles from Columbiana County Defiance in northwest Ohio. It would then run north to Michigan and Ontario.
The pipeline, 42 inches in diameter, would transport about 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. That’s enough o heat 6 million houses.
The project needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Construction could begin in January 2017 and the pipeline could begin operations on November 2017.
The pipeline is a threat and will also impact property values plus insurance and mortgages, the grass-roots group says.
For more information, go to www.sustainablemedinacounty.org.