Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 49 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
General News    H3'ed 3/7/11

Fracking Democracy

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Greg Coleridge
Become a Fan
  (8 fans)
Industrial horizontal drilling with massive slick water hydraulic fracturing (known as "fracking") poses tremendous risks to our communities.

The plan to force toxic chemical-laced water at incredibly high pressure through shafts to fracture bedrock hundreds of feet below the ground of our communities to release natural gas threatens human health as well as our water, land and air.

But the threats are more than physical and environmental. They're political.

Industrial drilling for natural gas is fracturing the very bedrock of what's left of our democracy at the local level based on current laws.

Out-of-state gas drilling corporations lobbied the Ohio legislature in 2004 for ripping control from local communities in regulating and prohibiting gas drilling. The result was passage of HB 278. Support for this measure to place regulation under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) came ironically from many legislators who in general are skeptical of big "bureaucracies" and government control over communities and corporations in favor of "local control."

Not in this instance.

Sadly, such maneuvers are typical of corporations who fear communities exercising their democratic, self-governing muscles. Gas drilling corporations don't want to justify industrial drilling in a housing development or in a community before a local zoning board in the presence of angry community residents. Not many zoning boards pressured by an informed and active citizenry would decide to permit industrial drilling in an area zoned exclusively for housing

The alternative for gas drilling corporations was to run to the state, and push for a bill preempting local zoning laws -- promoted often in the name of "modernizing" or "harmonizing" antiquated local laws.  Voilà , no more worries about pesky and arcane local control issues.

Gas drilling corporations escaping democratic controls is not a new corporate phenomenon.

US-based corporations have spent 150 years in this country working to escape any and all forms of public definition and control.  They have sought to gain "liberty" and "freedom" from We the People in many ways.

During the early period of US history, many state laws and constitutions controlled corporations through awarding, conditioning and revoking charters. Corporate charters were privileges, not rights. They granted corporations the privilege to exist for specific purposes and limited time-periods. Profits were limited. Liabilities of stockholders, owners or managers were in some cases limited. Corporations were often prohibited from all types of direct or indirect political influence.

Following the Civil War, many corporations amassed great wealth (which corporations do following all wars). They sought to translate their new economic power into greater political power. They still do so today.

Three historic strategies corporations have used to escape democratic controls are:

-    From a "lower" level of government to a "higher" level -- usually from the state level to the federal level. It's more difficult for ordinary citizens to wield influence the further removed legislators are from local communities. There are also usually many fewer in number federal or state legislators to politically influence than the aggregate number at the state or local level.

-    From legislatures to "regulatory agencies." Agencies like the ODNR provide a convenient shield between, on the one hand, the public and accountable legislators and, on the other hand, corporations -- a political sinkhole where activist energy, time and resources often end up. Regulatory agencies can be stacked with corporate friendly appointees (the new head of ODNR, for example, is a drilling guy). Regulatory agencies, by definition, regulate activities, as opposed to prohibit them -- ensuring that the activity or process occurs in some form. And even if regulatory agencies decide against a corporate action, corporations can always escape this arena and run to the courts, which lead to the next form of escaping.

-    From legislatures to courts. It was much easier to stack a few courts with corporate-friendly judges or bribe a few judges (who at the federal level aren't even elected but appointed for life) than to try to influence an entire group of legislators.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Well Said 1   Supported 1   Valuable 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Greg Coleridge Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Greg Coleridge is Co-Director of Move to Amend. He previously worked for more than three decades with the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio where he educated, advocated and organized on a range of justice, peace, environmental and (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

127 Reasons Why Reversing Citizens United is NOT Enough

The Pushback Against Ending Corporate Rule

The country is broken because the system is fixed

East Palestine Train Derailment Caused and Worsened by Real Democracy Derailment

How Can Obama Invest in the Economy, Create Jobs, and Not Raise the Debt? Use Government Issued Debt Free Money

Fracking Democracy

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend