Dressed as citizen referees, activists “blow the whistle” on gas industry’s influence over Ohio legislators and repression of the public’s voice on a critical issue for Ohioans.
Columbus, OH- Frustrated after several months of deliberate stonewalling of six bills to slow or halt fracking and deep waste injection, students, farmers, small business owners, and community members ensured their presence was felt as the bills were given their first ever introductory hearing at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday. Activists believe the delay on hearings of these bills is directly linked with the $2.8 million the Gas Industry has poured into the Ohio Legislature, including $213,000 in campaign contributions allotted to Governor Kasich. Hearing rumors that the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chair had no intention of allowing further hearings or opportunities for public comment, activists–many dressed in referee jerseys–packed the hearing room to call foul on the the gas industry’s corruption of the legislative process.
“I came here today to hold our representatives accountable to the people they’re supposed to represent. A majority of Ohioans want to see a halt to fracking until it can be proven to be safe. The frackers have a lot of money, but we have truth and people power on our side. I’m hoping that will prevail today” said local small business owner Jennie Scheinbach.
Fracking is quickly becoming a top tier issue for Ohioans due to growing concern over the local environmental and health impacts. Two hundred marched against the industry’s first Ohio conference in Youngstown last November. Over three hundred rallied on the steps of the Statehouse in January calling for a halt to fracking and waste injection throughout the state. Activists have even been arrested in recent months for disrupting industry operations in efforts to protect impacted communities.
In what activists deemed to be an effort to quell resistance yesterday, the Ohio House pushed back the hearings of the six bills for hours until many activists could no longer stay. Although originally notified the bills would receive a first hearing between 3pm and 5pm, hearing attendees were informed only at 4pm that the bills would not be heard until 7pm.
“As a student at Ohio State, I felt called to participate in this action. Just as the administration at Ohio State isn’t honoring the voices of students in their decision to frack on university land, our representatives aren’t honoring the voices of distressed citizens across Ohio. They demonstrated their preference for the gas industry today in further delaying the hearing on bills that would slow or put a halt to toxic fracking operations in our state” said OSU junior, Adrian Jusdanis.
Undeterred by the further delay, about a dozen remained at the Statehouse ensuring the voices of concerned Ohioans were represented. The growing collective power brought by students, farmers, and community members will be showcased this summer in a mobilization called Don’t Frack Ohio. A coalition of Ohio grassroots groups, environmental and progressive organizations, national movement leaders, and concerned citizens are calling for the largest mobilization against fracking in the country’s history to take place in Columbus this June 14-17. Details of the June mobilization against fracking can be viewed at www.dontfrackoh.org.