Mayor delivers testimony at charter amendment’s final stand

Paul Garbarino and Paul Garbarino

Personal apprehension and moral principles sounded through council chambers Monday night as charter amendment proponents exerted their final effort to stimulate the Bowling Green community’s support, bringing the nine-month initiative to an end on the eve of Election Day.

“This legislation is an attempt to power city officials and our community to take a legal stance against unwanted fossil fuel infrastructure on BG property,” University Environmental Action Group president and main contributor to the proposed charter amendment Brad Holmes, said.

From fighting federal court cases to getting on the ballot, Holmes and dozens of other passionate community members have made intense efforts to take legal action against the advances of the Nexus pipeline through Bowling Green.

“This is a matter of principle more than it is an issue of pragmatics,” University student Ross Martin said. “The opportunity to inspire does not come along all the time, and when it does, you have to take it.”

All city council members have voiced their apprehension towards the charter amendment, citing its policy weaknesses, poor language and the worrisomeprecedent it would set for the future of the city’s charter. Though the pipeline protesters seek to question the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability, Mayor Richard Edwards offered an extensive reply to the activists, outlining the city’s efforts toward making Bowling Green the greenest city in Ohio.

“As someone who has long been involved environmental issues, I understand your passion, and I commend you for your desire to see change in the city,” Edwards said to council Monday night. “You’re absolutely correct that municipalities have been virtually powerless in terms of what they can do. But what really bothers me about [the charter amendment] is … I have certainly talked to the people of Waterville, and the only thing the amendment will do is it will empower them to say no to a construction permit. And what will happen, unfortunately, is as soon as the decision is rendered, is that it will immediately go into a court.”

Edwards said he knew of no small community in the United States that has successfully combated the encroachment of a pipeline. When state governments grant companies eminent domain rights, those firms have full permission to build on externally-owned property without opposition. Small town ordinances and charter amendments are powerless against federal law.

“No amount of money would take us to a victory in court,” council member Sandy Rowland said, citing the advice of a legal councilor. “And the gas companies will simply take the fines if things go wrong, because that money is nothing to the gas companies.”

Edwards seeks to combat the pipeline in an alternative way through close collaboration with the Ohio EPA and excessive regulation of its construction.

“We’re going to have people right here checking every step of that pipeline, especially as it goes across the Maumee River,” Edwards said. “I mean in a very serious way, with the Ohio EPA, with FERC, with other groups, we will be monitoring and assessing exactly what is done.”

Mayor Edwards also stated no other city in Ohio rivals Bowling Green’s sustainability initiatives.

The city of Bowling Green has the largest solar field in all of Ohio, was the first city in Ohio to have wind turbines and is currently 41 percent energy efficient, making the town the most environmentally-friendly energy consumer in Ohio. While there may be nothing to stop the Nexus pipeline from crossing through the Maumee, the city and University are still heavily committed to environmental sustainability.