City of Mansfield Passes Environmental Bill of Rights

On November 6, 2012, residents of the city of Mansfield, Ohio voted to approve an environmental bill of rights that will require any company planning to construct an injection well for the disposal of brine from oil and gas production operations to obtain prior approval from the Mansfield city council.  The city council decided to put the environmental bill of rights before voters in July 2012 but the bill did not garner much attention until a few weeks before the election when the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, and Mansfielders for Jobs issued political materials opposing the bill.  The bill was approved with 62.9 percent of voters in favor of the bill.
Opponents of the environmental bill of rights have expressed concern that the regulatory scope of the bill may extend beyond injection wells.  Section 1.02(H)(2) states that “No permit, license, privilege or charter issued by any State or government agency . . . which would violate the prohibitions of this Charter provision or deprive any City resident(s), of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by this Charter, the Ohio Constitution, the United States Constitution, or other laws, shall be deemed valid within the City of Mansfield, without the written legislative consent of the City of Mansfield.”  However, the bill of rights may not be enforceable and could face a court challenge since the local legislation would be preempted by state law under Ohio Rev. Code 1509.03.