Students and concerned citizens protest during Tuesday's Oberlin Council meeting.
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OBERLIN — Oberlin City Council was drowned out by the chanting of Oberlin College students protesting the city accepting an agreement with the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline.
Council eventually voted to approve the second reading of the ordinance 4-3, with a third reading scheduled for the next meeting. Council President Bryan Burgess said he commended the passion and effort from the students and concerned citizens, but the disruption was a step too far.
“I respect their position, disrespecting our meeting process is not acceptable,” he said. “We gave the public every opportunity to speak, and we did that two weeks ago at first reading and we did that tonight at the second reading and we are going to do it again two weeks from now at third reading.”
Burgess said he tried to give the people as much time as they wanted to speak publicly and no remarks were made past three minutes, but they decided to speak during the voting process. The first reading at Feb. 5 Council meeting had student protestors, but the group was not as vocal as they were Tuesday, Burgess said.
Most of the students who protested at the meeting were part of a group called the Students for Energy Justice. The group works to unite students and community members around resisting extreme energy extraction and defending community rights over corporate interest, according to its website.
Christopher Kennedy, a senior at Oberlin College and member of the SEJ, said they came to the Council meeting to attempt to stop the agreement with NEXUS.
“We are just shocked that the city would consider this and to remind them that they don’t have to worry about whether to vote yes or no because the people already decided how they feel about pipelines in 2013,” he said.
In November 2013, voters approved the Community Bill of Rights that would “ban the extraction of gas and oil, along with associated activities, including the disposal of associated wastes, into injection wells within the city and its jurisdiction,” according to the initiative.
Oberlin Council, along with a number of other cities and property owners in Northeast Ohio have stood together to stop the construction of the pipeline over the past few years. Most of the opposition was halted Dec. 18 after a ruling from U.S. Judge John Adams in Akron. The federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in May by more than 60 property owners against the construction of the pipeline.
The agreement offered at the meeting would include a $100,000 settlement as well as cooperation with the city while building the pipeline.
The next meeting will be 7 p.m. March 5.