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Ohio Utica Shale

'Poisoned waters' billboards trigger Coshocton County lawsuit

By Bob Downing Published: August 20, 2014


A Coshocton County man is speaking out against fracking wastes, and his two billboards have got him in hot water with a Texas-based company that operates Ohio injection wells.

Mike Boals, 55, a selective-cut lumberman, who lives outside Coshocton, has been sued by Buckeye Brine in Coshocton County Common Pleas Court.

Boals rents the two billboards a few hundred yards from two injection wells in Coshocton that are used to dispose of liquid drilling wastes. They are near the corner of U.S. 36 and Airport Road. He refuses to take them down.

His message focuses on the threat to water and includes a verse from the New Testament. He cites "poisoned waters" and a quote from Revelations.

The company called his messages false and defamatory attacks on its wells. It says its wells are safe and legal and the messages are misleading.

Now the legal battle betwen Boals and Buckeye Brine is escalating into a fight over free speech and religious expression.

"I want people to think about what’s happening," he said. "People don’t have a clue what an injection well is. Right now, it’s out of sight and out of mind."

He added, "To me, an injection well is like a dump atop the ground.…It’s not right."

Boals said he felt that he had to take action because of the volume of fresh water that drillers use in hydraulically fracturing or fracking the horizontal wells in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio. Each well may require about 5 million gallons of fresh water.

The process destroys fresh water by contaminating it with chemicals, heavy metals and low-level radiation from the underground rocks, he said. "It destroys so much fresh water," he said.

That’s what triggered his one-man attack on injection wells, of which Ohio has 200 in operation and another 39 permitted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

His billboard messages went up about July 8 and Buckeye Brine filed suit on July 29.

Boals’ attorney, Megan Lovett of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services with offices in Pittsburgh and Akron, called the suit "an attempt to bully Mike into submission with a handful of bogus claims."

She added, "We intend to fight back and win.…Speaking the truth and being a Christian is in no way intolerable in American society. In fact, free speech and religious expression are enshrined in our Constitution."

Boals said he is unsure how long his billboards will be up.

Attorneys for Buckeye Brine have been in contact with the owner of the billboards, demanding that the messages come down, he said.

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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.

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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.

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