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Ohio Utica Shale

Activist not swayed by Pittsburgh center, new drilling standards

By Bob Downing Published: March 21, 2013

From Sandy Buchanan of Ohio Citizen Action:

CLEVELAND – “Yesterday, newspapers coast-to-coast ran a story declaring the end of conflict over hydraulic fracturing operations by oil and gas drillers. One headline read, ‘Both sides agree on tough new fracking standards.’ Another read, ‘Fracking companies, environmentalists and philanthropies join forces.’ A third read, ‘Oil, gas companies and environmentalists agree on new fracking standards.’

“In truth, this deal in no way represents the interests or agreement of the people being harmed by fracking in Ohio.”


As described by the Associated Press,

“Some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies have made peace with environmentalists, agreeing to a voluntary set of tough new standards for fracking in the Northeast that could lead to a major expansion of drilling. . . . In this case, drilling and pipeline companies will be encouraged to submit to an independent review of their operations. If they are found to be abiding by a list of stringent measures to protect the air and water from pollution, they will receive the blessing of the new Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development, created by environmentalists and the energy industry. . . .The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio — where a frenzy of drilling is under way in the huge, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica Shale formations — as well as New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling.”

The story behind the headlines collapses almost immediately:

  • This is not a conflict between oil and gas companies and “environmentalists.” The drillers are up against landowners, neighbors, and taxpayers; people who drink municipal water, people who drink well-water; doctors, nurses, firefighters, EMS technicians,and so on. To portray this is a just “environmentalists” makes it seem as though it is just two special interest groups at odds. It sets up a situation where one or more groups with the word “Environment” in their name think they can cut a deal with the drillers.
  • As the statement noted, these standards are voluntary. By definition, voluntary standards are not “tough.” People who can be hurt by violations must have some recourse. If the honor system worked with Texas and Oklahoma drillers, we wouldn’t have the problems we do today.
  • The statement says, “The project will cover Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio . . . as well as New York and other states in the East that have put a hold on new drilling.” We can’t speak for Pennsylvanians and West Virginians; as for Ohio, it is fair to say that it will only “cover” Ohio if Ohioans agree to it. We don’t intend to be covered by someone else’s deal.As for New York, there is no fracking allowed there. It makes no sense to declare a deal over standards for an industrial practice that is banned.

Who is in on this deal?

  • From the oil and gas side, Shell, Chevron, EQT Corporation and Consol Energy. This list omits Chesapeake Energy, which is overwhelmingly dominant in Ohio’s shale industry. The announcement says the project will “cover” Ohio, but that is impossible since Chesapeake isn’t involved.
  • The groups that claimed to represent the “environmentalist” side were led by the Environmental Defense Fund, and also included the Clean Air Task Force and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), and the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Neither Environmental Defense Fund nor the others represents any of the many constituencies in Ohio involved in this issue. Last year, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, of the financial and media corporation Bloomberg Limited Partnership, gave the Environmental Defense Fund $6 million over three years to pursue and announce just such deals with oil and gas drillers. In the spring of 2012, when the oil and gas industry was pushing a new state law through the Ohio legislature, the Environmental Defense Fund flew a staff member from Washington, DC, to Columbus topraise the driller billin testimony which wildly misstated the content of the bill.
  • The board of the new Center will have twelve members, designated as four representatives of oil and gas drillers, four representatives of environmental groups, and four neutral members. The people chosen for the third category are anything but neutral.

Christine Todd Whitman, for example, was the U.S. EPA Administrator under President George Bush. In that role, she paved the way for the notorious 2005 “Halliburton loophole” by conducting a 2001-2004 study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water. The report concluded that, while fracking fluids are toxic and someof these toxic fluids remain in the ground, ”injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coal bed methane wells poses little or no threat” to drinking water supplies and “does not justify additional studyat this time.”Citing this study, Congress passed and PresidentBush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting fracking from the SafeDrinking Water Act, called the “Halliburton loophole.”

Another purportedly neutral board member is Paul O’Neill, who was Secretary of the Treasury under President George Bush. Before arriving in Washington, however, O’Neill had a different job, Chief Executive Officer of ALCOA, a notorious extractive polluter.O’Neill is also on the board of the RAND Corporation think-tank in Santa Monica, California. Oil and gas drillers, working under the umbrella of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, paid the RAND Corporation to hold a conference on December 14, 2011, to promote the idea of injecting toxic coal mine waste water under pressure into hydraulic fracturing wells.”

— Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action



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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.