Here is the post-event press release from the eco-groups involved in yesterday's rally against injection wells in Warren, Ohio:
Hundreds of Activists Converge in Ohio's Portage and Trumbull Counties
Rally Against Toxic, Radioactive Fracking Waste, Hold Interfaith Prayer Service
Warren, Ohio - A coalition of local, statewide and national groups concerned about toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, converged on Portage and Trumbull counties today for “Don’t Frack Ohio 2.” The coalition called for an end to the state being used as a regional dumping ground for oil and gas waste. The rally drew 250 participants in an area heavily targeted by the oil and gas industry for disposal of toxic and potentially radioactive drilling waste from fracking.The rally was held in Courthouse Square in Warren, Ohio, and faith leaders led participants in an interfaith service at a nearby impacted area following the rally.
Rabbi Josh Jacobs-Velde and Father John Rausch led 120 people in the interfaith service at the nearby Raymond-Pander injection well site, preventing access to the site. Father Rausch said, “I have come to pray because God’s creation is in jeopardy.” The attenders sang hymns, ritually blew a shofar, and symbolically left flowers at the site before peacefully departing.
“This service is a reckoning with what the fracking industry is attempting to do to our state: turn it into their dumping zone for their toxic waste. Through our prayers we are removing the veil of secrecy from this and forcing our government to confront this as the crisis that it is,” said Sam Rubin, a participant at the service.
Fracking, a controversial process of drilling, produces large amounts of liquid and solid waste that is potentially radioactive and contains a cocktail of toxic, undisclosed chemicals used during the process. Toxic or radioactive fracking waste is being sent to underground injection wells, municipal landfills, municipal water treatment plants, spread on roadways, and operators have even been caught illegally dumping the waste into streams.
In the last 34 years, the oil and gas industry has injected nearly 8 billion gallons of toxic waste underground in Ohio, with over half a billion gallons injected in 2012. Waste is expected to dramatically increase in coming years.
"The fact that Ohio is a dumping ground for the oil and gas industry is just a symptom of bigger issues with our democracy. This event brought Ohioans together to call attention to our representatives who are acting mainly in the interests of the fracking industry. The most important step to winning back our basic rights to clean air, clean water and effective democracy is to stand together as citizens,” said Vanessa Pesec, a resident of Concord, Ohio and president of NEOGAP, the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection.
Under Ohio regulation, local municipalities and residents cannot appeal issued permits or decide where and whether fracking activity happens in their community. An exemption for fracking waste recently included in Ohio’s operating budget opened up Ohio’s landfills to more radioactive waste from oil and gas drilling.
“It’s been a magic carpet ride for the fracking industry here in Ohio,” Pesec said.
"We've had earthquakes, water contamination, illegal dumping and truckload after truckload of toxic waste coming from other states," said John Williams from Youngstown, Ohio. "When will our lawmakers start protecting the health of their citizens, not the profits of oil and gas companies? It’s time for them to ban injection wells."
Over half of the waste injected last year came from out-of-state fracking operations. During a recent comment period Portage County residents objected to seven new injection wells being proposed for a single property. Despite citizen complaints, last week the ODNR approved eleven new sites for underground injection – eight of them in Portage County. Trumbull County and Morrow County will host the three other newly permitted sites.
“Portage County is a dumping ground. We've got among the highest number of waste injection wells in the state. This industry is clearly profitable. If it is as safe as all the ads say, why won't they allow regular testing of the waste to keep people safe? The reality is that the industry is protected from taking that responsibility,” said Gwen Fischer of Concerned Citizens Ohio. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, a federal law, gave key exemptions to fracking companies from clean air, clean water, liability and waste disposal laws.
“When the production well drilling really gets going, this waste could end up everywhere in Ohio. Taxpayers and landowners will be the ones footing the bill to clean it up. If we live in a democracy, the people's concerns need to be taken seriously. Industry reports say that cement fails. We'll be facing serious issues in the years ahead if we don't act now. People are fired up about this issue and I was excited to stand with people from all across the state today,” said Fischer.
Don’t Frack Ohio Steering Committee: 350.org; Food & Water Watch; Concerned Citizens Ohio; Frackfree Mahoning; Ohio Student Environmental Coalition; Appalachia Resists!; Communities for Safe and Sustainable Energy; NEOGAP (Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection); FaCT (Faith Communities Together for Fracking Awareness),Progress Ohio; Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Buckeye Forest Council; Energy Action Coalition; Frack Free Ohio; Greenpeace USA; Stop the Frack Attack.
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.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
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.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.