Our friends at Oil Change International put together this amazing fact sheet tracking Big Oil & Gas money in Ohio’s Politics. Feel free to download it and share it!
What an incredible day. Don’t Frack Ohio 2.0 on Monday was powerful — with around 300 in attendance at the rally and 150 at the interfaith service at the injection well we were heard and took a stand, preventing at least 4 trucks from dumping. It could not have happened without you! Thank you.
Help spread our story: http://ecowatch.com/2013/hundreds-protest-radioactive-fracking-waste-ohio/
And check out some more photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/krstwll
The Don’t Frack Ohio Planning Team
Welcome to Portage County, Ohio, the biggest dumping ground for fracking waste in a state that is fast becoming the go-to destination for the byproducts of America’s latest energy boom.
As fracking—pumping a briny solution of water, lubricants, anti-bacterial agents, and a cocktail of other chemicals into underground shale formations at high pressure to fracture the rock and extract trapped natural gas—has expanded in the Midwest, so has the need for disposing of used fracking fluid. That fracking waste can be recycled or processed at wastewater treatment facilities, much like sewage. But most of the waste—630 billion gallons, each year—goes back into the ground, pumped into disposal wells, which are then capped and sealed. A bunch of it ends up underneath Portage County.
Nestled in the northeast corner of Ohio, about halfway between Cleveland and Youngstown, this 500-square-mile county pumped 2,358,371 million barrels—almost 75 million gallons—of fracking brine into 15 wells last year, driving enough liquid into the ground to fill a train of tanker cars that would stretch 37 miles. Most of the waste came from out of state.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, almost 58 percent of the waste injected into Ohio wells is trucked in—much of it from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. More than 200 disposal wells dot the state, which has looser regulations than its neighbors. The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that Ohio injected just over 14 million barrels of fracking waste into disposal wells in 2012, and more than 8 million came from other states—an uptick of 19 percent from 2011. And despite Republican Gov. John Kasich saying he’s not thrilled about the amount of waste crossing state lines, federal commerce protections prevent the state from barring legal substances from being shipped in. Because Ohio regulates its own disposal wells, the waiting period to get approval to drill a new well is about five weeks, compared to upwards of eight months in Pennsylvania, where the feds are in charge. That might explain why Ohio has more than 20 times as many wells as its neighbor.
“People are concerned,” says Maureen Frederick, one of three county commissioners for Portage, “and rightly so.” According to Frederick, the county not only has no say over the wells, but it also doesn’t see so much as a cent of the revenue collected. Well permits cost $1,000, and the state charges $0.20 per barrel for out-of-state waste and $0.05 for in-state waste, meaning the state collected roughly $2 million for the 14 million barrels of frackwater that were pumped into the ground in 2012.
Portage, which is home to Kent State University, was mostly a farming community 25 years ago, and it has benefited from the growth of ancillary industries that come with fracking. But Frederick, who lives less than a mile from a disposal site, said she wasn’t aware of any economic boon that has followed the injection wells. Local realtors, on the other hand, were “observing the difficulty of people wanting to buy property, and those looking to sell being worried about their property values,” as residents’ concerns about groundwater contamination and earthquakes have grown.
There are good reasons to worry. The dozen earthquakes that rattled Youngstown at the end of 2011 were thought at the time to have been caused by fracking. A new study connecting underground injection to earthquakes seems to confirm those suspicions, and there is growing evidence that the practice is linked to methane leaking into water supplies. (See the GIF below for more.) There are problems with the wells used to store the used fracking brine, too. The wells that this waste is pumped into—called Class II disposal wells—are subject to softer regulations than other disposal wells (there are six classes in all). The EPA estimates that the chance of a given injection well failing is around 1 in a million. But 680,000 injection wells—some 170,000 of them Class II—dot the country, containing about 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid.
how fracking causes earthquakes
Many of the wells in Ohio are repurposed oil and gas wells that are grandfathered in and exempt from current standards, and government regulators raised concerns about disposal wells contaminating groundwater as far back as the 1980s. At the time, the EPA knew of 23 cases nationwide where drinking water was contaminated by Class II wells. But a recent ProPublica investigation found another 25 cases of alleged contamination from Class II wells between 2008 and 2011 alone. In 1989, the Government Accountability Office, then called the General Accounting Office, filed a report that “says that we have some problems with Class II wells,” says Briana Mordick, a staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They actually wrote up proposed improvements to the regulations, but those regulations have never been updated.” Even perfectly sound wells have leaked after waste was injected at higher pressure than the rock formations holding it could bear. In southern Ohio, waste from one well migrated up through 1,400 feet of rock.
The injection-well boom has led to rising community tensions. At an open house back in May, a mostly middle-aged crowd of about 50 people, many of them academics at Kent State, were surprised to be met with 14 armed Ohio Department of Natural Resources police officers and a police dog, according to the Portage County Record-Courier. An ODNR spokesman told the local paper that the show of force was in response to an earlier problem with protesters, but an octogenarian who attended the meeting told the Record-Courier he’d “never been to a public meeting so oversupplied with armed people.” There have also been recent problems with disposal. In February, Ben Lupo, who owns D&L Energy, an energy production and marketing company based in Youngstown, was indicted on charges of ordering more than 20,000 gallons of brine into the Mahoning River. The company had racked up 120 violations, but didn’t suffer serious consequences until an anonymous tip exposed the illegal dumping.
Two of the three members of the Portage County Commission have voiced their support for a recent bill that would ban injection wells, but even the bill’s sponsor doesn’t think it will get traction in the GOP-controlled state House of Representatives. “I abhor having the distinction of being the injection well capital of Ohio,” Frederick says. But there’s not much she can do about it.
via Mother Jones
For those living in Ohio, hydraulic fracturing wells aren’t the only cause of concern in the nation’s quest to leave no oil formation un-fracked. The state has been the site of a growing fracking fluid disposal industry that enjoys a steady stream of business from neighboring Pennsylvania.
Ohio is home to 190,000 of the 680,000 fracking fluid disposal wells nationwide. Last year, more than 14 million barrels of the toxic waste were injected into the ground in Ohio.
With the focus on the petroleum industry’s use of fracking to extract oil and natural gas, disposal sites have largely flown under the radar. Yet the sites, known as injection wells, are essential to the fracking industry and pose their own set of threats to groundwater supplies and the health of nearby residents.
That’s why residents throughout the state are gearing up for what they’re calling Don’t Frack Ohio 2, a weekend-long conference for concerned residents that will wrap up with a July 29 inter-faith service and rally in the state’s Trumbull County.
“Fracking waste is the dirty secret than no legislator wants to talk about when they’re making promises about the prosperity fracking will supposedly bring to our state,” organizers said in an email sent to supporters.
What is a Disposal Injection Well?
The process of hydraulic fracturing injects a mixture of carcinogenic chemicals, silica sand and water into the ground to break up and access oil deposits, which are then retrieved from the well. While the process allows once-untapped oil to be extracted, it doesn’t make its way to the surface as an untainted product.
The extracted oil is tainted with other naturally occurring materials, including brine, a mixture of silica-laced water containing radioactive organic materials. When the oil is separated from this mixture, companies are left with a wastewater mixture not suitable for above-ground disposal.
This is where the need for injection wells comes into the picture.
In Ohio, injection wells are created from oil and gas wells no longer in use. For the industry, such wells are the answer for fracking fluid wastewater disposal, since the infrastructure for injecting the material “back where it belongs” is already in place.
Yet for those living near abandoned oil wells, that’s cause for concern.
As Nathan Rutz, campaign organizer for environmental organization Ohio Citizens Action, explains, the regulations for acceptable disposal sites are flawed. The underground infrastructure for former oil and gas wells is susceptible to breakdown, creating a potential avenue for the brine to seep into groundwater supplies, he said.
This has residents deeply concerned because contamination of groundwater could lead to a permanent and serious health risk. Because the chemicals used in the fracking process are diverse and often hidden from the public through “trade secret” protections, Ohio residents aren’t entirely sure how great the threats are.
“A lot of people are terrified,” Rutz told Mint Press News.
Based on the history of the industry, there’s cause for concern.
According to a 2012 ProPublica investigation, fountains of contaminated water buried deep below the surface have emerged in Oklahoma and Louisiana in the last four years. In the early 1990s, Florida was considered to have the strictest regulations for injection wells, yet 20 of them malfunctioned, contaminating an aquifer in the southern portion of the state.
According to statistics compiled by ProPublica, inspections on injection wells from 2007 to 2010 revealed that structural integrity violations were issued for one out of every six wells tested. For the 220,000 wells that were examined, 17,000 violations were issued. In the U.S., there are nearly 700,000 injection wells—and the demand is growing.
Rallying for Change, Awareness
The rally and workshop sessions scheduled for the end of July are as much about creating awareness for legislators as they are about protesting the industry.
“The problem is our legislatures don’t know about injection wells and how little we know,” Rutz told Mint Press News.
The event is also about educating people on what the new industry could mean for their neighborhoods and families, which may feel the impact of the fracking industry in their own backyards.
There’s also an issue of policy, as Ohio’s lack of protections has emerged as a major factor for the growing industry.
“Since our neighboring states are much more stringent with their waste disposal standards, Ohio has become the designated regional dumping ground for fracking waste. It’s time to tell our policymakers that big oil and gas corporations should be cleaning up their own messes, not dumping it in our backyards,” organizers said in an email about the July 29 rally.
While the focus this time around will primarily be on injection wells, Ohio residents are also busy battling against oil extraction. The state is a prime target for oil drilling because it sits atop the Utica and Marcellus shale formations.
As of May, 100 drilling wells were in operation in Ohio, according to the Department of Natural Resources. And it doesn’t look like things will slow down anytime soon. Nearly 700 permits have been given out, with more than 330 wells drilled.
The creation of drilling wells in the state feeds the cycle, creating an even greater need for injection wells and leaving area residents fighting an entire industry that feeds off itself.
Residents rallying against the industry could be facing an uphill battle. The state’s governor has repeatedly rolled out the red carpet for oil companies looking at Ohio for fracking and disposal possibilities.
According to Don’t Frack Ohio, a grassroots advocacy organization, Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, set a goal of increasing the number of fracking wells in the state by 4,000 in just four years.
In June, Kasich signed new oil drilling rules for the state that sought to tax oil companies and monitor water supply usage. While controversial among members of his own political party, the rules were largely seen by Ohio residents as a nod to the industry and an attempt to ensure the public the industry is being monitored.
Kasich is a known supporter of the oil industry, having received more than $213,000 in political contributions from the industry, according to a TruthOut report. He’s not alone. From 2001 to 2011, fracking companies contributed $2.8 million to Ohio candidates.
Ohio’s congressional representatives haven’t escaped the fracking cash rush, either. According to Common Cause, $600,000 was spent by the oil and gas industry in contributions to the state’s members of Congress.
The top recipient? Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who, as of 2011, had received $186,900.
Despite the fight against big money, residents of Ohio still hold the power in terms of electing officials to act in their best interest. The fight against the fracking industry, both in terms of injection sites and oil drilling sites, is not political. The rally expected July 29 will draw those who are not united by a political ideology, but by a desire to keep their land safe and their families healthy.
By Trisha Marczak
This dramatic video was taken at Westwood Mobile Home Park, and shows the wasteful, and dangerous process of “Flaring” which is causing nightmares for folks living in this community.
“NRDC experts have blogged about the very harmful climate impacts of flaring. it is also an enormous waste of energy–when instead our country should be saving energy–and a financial loss to mineral owners and taxpayers.
But flaring is also turning communities into hell with painful noise, black smoke, breathing complaints, and flares that light up the night sky. ” – NRDC
Learn more about this, as Pat, a resident of Westwood shares her story at our rally next Monday.
…According to ProPublica, “[o]perators are required to do so-called ‘mechanical integrity’ tests at regular intervals, yearly for Class 1 wells and at least once every five years for Class 2 wells. In 2010, the tests led to more than 7,500 violations [in the U.S.], with more than 2,300 wells failing. In Texas, one violation was issued for every three Class 2 wells examined in 2010.”
In some cases, operators aren’t required to comply with what regulations do exist. Many operational wells were built before current regulations were put into place. These “grandfathered” wells are not, and will not be, subject to the same regulations as new wells.
Even with new wells, the standards are not being met. According to the GAO, new permits are being issued “without evidence that the pressure tests were conducted.”
Inspection regulations in place are habitually ignored or sidestepped. Perhaps because regulations are, according to some experts, “outdated at this point.”
Read the whole story via Ecowatch
Today, grassroots leaders in Ohio called out state leaders for failing to protect Ohioans from solid radioactive waste from hydraulic fracturing (fracking). According to local citizens groups, Gov. Kasich’s budget bill will provide inadequate protection from low-level radioactive waste (LLRW), and therefore constitutes a handout to the oil and gas industry. They are asking the state to require the oil and gas industry to properly dispose of LLRW.
“The regulations represent yet another concession to the oil and gas industry at the expense of Ohioans’ health and safety,” says Alison Auciello, an organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Governor Kasich and our regulators are billing the proposal as a way to monitor and keep radioactive waste from landfills. But the legislation will indeed do the opposite of the claims made by the administration. Even worse, it gives a false sense of security that we are being protected. Disposal of radioactive waste should be considered a grave matter, not an ill-informed side note to the budget bill.”
“The General Assembly is playing a word game to remake lethally radioactive waste into ‘drilling cuttings’ in order to allow drillers to dump their mountain of garbage on the cheap,” said Terry Lodge, an attorney for the opposition working group. “They’re replacing scientific fact with magical thinking and endangering public health, water, land and air—all for profit. By implementing these standards, they will violate federal standards. This will not stand.”
“The radiation inherently present in shale gas drilling waste is a very serious concern. Whether disposed via injection wells, dumped into landfills or discharged into our Ohio surface waters from waste water plants, our state appears to be targeted as a regional radiation sacrifice zone,” asserted Chris Borello, for Concerned Citizens of Stark County. “But once let out into our environment, this carcinogenic and long-lived toxin will leave Ohioans at risk forever. The proposal in the Ohio budget is an outdated, substandard criteria misleadingly contrary to what the National Academy of Science, the U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and what 37 other states cite as the protective definition concerning this form of radiation. If enacted, Ohio will recklessly allow much of this radiation to be swept under the rug, posing an ongoing threat to the health of residents.”
“Through the chosen definitions, this legislation exempts much radioactive and toxic material from any testing or tracking. Add oil-based substances, like benzene, to this concoction and the Governor and Ohio regulators think this waste can be used for ‘any manner authorized as a beneficial use.’ This is bad policy and endangers the health of Ohioans,” said Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection.
“Ohio learned an important lesson in the 1990s when we were considering placing a low level radioactive waste landfill in the state for medical and research waste. We learned that if you take a small amount of radioactive waste and mix it with a large volume of regular wastes, you end up with a large volume of radioactive waste,” said Julie Weatherington-Rice, senior scientist at Bennett & Williams Environmental. “Somehow, our legislature and our administration have forgotten this vital, basic radiological lesson. Water soluble wastes like radium, uranium and radon gas just leach out anyway, leaving behind the rest of the radioactive elements to contaminate wherever our current government chooses to put them. You either learn from history, or you repeat the mistakes again and again.”
Ohio Representatives have shown time and time again that they represent the interest of the Ohio oil & gas industry over communities.
July 29th we are going to take a stand and ask them to join with us in protecting Ohioans from radioactive waste.
The People’s Assembly will take place in Waren, Ohio at Courthouse Square with a bolder action following.
Prior to Don’t Frack Ohio Training Convergence & Rally
WCRS FM, Columbus Community Radio Program, Conscious Voices, includes audio clips from Josh Fox’s Gasland, Mark Ruffalo’s pitch, and stories from gas wells in Appalachia and Eastern Ohio
WCRS FM Your Voices. Summary of Don’t Frack Ohio includes music related anti-fracking and other anti-extraction movement
Training Convergence Coverage
WCRS FM Conscious Voices includes panel presentation by Alison Auciello of Food and Water Watch, discussion of Fracking threat to Mohican state park, and commentary.
Free Speech Radio News Story 6.15.12 (aired on 150 Pacifica-affiliated radio stations)
Group against fracking gathers at Ohio Statehouse - Fox 19 (AP wire story, picked up in ~15 outlets, mostly regional)
Thousands Protest At Statehouse Against Fracking – 10TV Ohio (CBS affiliate)
Protestors Gather in Columbus - WYTV33 (ABC affiliate)
Don’t Frack OH - Huffington Post
Local residents to participate in state anti-fracking rally - Coshocton Tribune
Free Speech Radio News Story 6.18.12 (aired on 150 Pacifica-affiliated radio stations)