From Ohio state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, D-Youngstown, on Monday:
COLUMBUS- State Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) sent letters today to the regulators charged with overseeing the burgeoning hydraulic fracturing industry, calling on them to be proactive in protecting the health and safety of Ohio’s communities. The letters follow a recent news report that highlights the steps neighboring states are taking to prevent radioactive contamination from fracking waste.
“With Ohio’s expanding fracking operations, the notion that radioactive waste could make its way into Ohio’s landfills or waterways is increasingly realistic and alarming,” Rep. Hagan said in his letter to the Directors of the EPA and ODNR. “And yet, state officials reportedly have no plans to take the same precautions that are deemed necessary by our neighboring shale states.”
Under last year’s budget bill, changes were made to Ohio law that reclassified the majority of wastes associated with shale gas production, essentially exempting the potentially radioactive materials from requiring sampling and testing. Meanwhile, a recent report by the Columbus Dispatch noted that regulators in nearby shale states Pennsylvania and West Virginia are moving to strengthen regulations in response to radiation concerns.
“Once again, the oil and gas industry said ‘jump’ and Republicans in the legislature responded ‘how high?’” Rep. Hagan said. “Ohio families are left to worry about whether radiation will seep through the giant loopholes created in our state’s regulatory framework and into their backyards.”
Full text of the letter is included below:
January 27, 2014
Dear Interim Director Butler,
I write to you today in regards to recent news reports that highlight the radioactive threat from fracking waste and Ohio’s worrying attitude of nonchalance on the matter. I have received a significant volume of correspondence from constituents regarding concerns of radioactive waste contaminating our communities’ lands and waterways, and I believe that being proactive in testing and inspections would be in the best interest of our state.
As the Columbus Dispatch reports, Pennsylvania officials recently tested creek mud near a fracking wastewater-treatment plant and found radiation levels to be forty-five times higher than federal drinking water standards. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey of Pennsylvania’s shale found that naturally occurring radium is more common in Marcellus shale, and withOhio’s expanding fracking operations the notion that radioactive waste could make its way into Ohio’s landfills or waterways is increasingly realistic and alarming. And yet, state officials are reported to have no plans to take the same precautions that are deemed necessary by our neighboring shale states.
I understand that thus far the legislature has failed to create a strong regulatory framework that mandates comprehensive testing of radioactive fracking waste. Indeed, the most recent legislation crafted by House Republicans carved out a giant loophole that exempts most shale gas waste from the definition of Technologically Enhance Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM). Some TENORM, of course, contains very high concentrations of radionuclides that can result in elevated human exposure to radiation.
Given the pervasive influence of the oil and gas lobby in the Statehouse, I do not expect Ohio’s fracking laws to be strengthened anytime in the near future. This is all the more reason that I urge your agency to be more proactive in its mission to protect Ohio’s environment and work with ODNR to pursue rigorous testing for hazardous levels of radiation near fracking operations in our eastern counties. While Pennsylvania and West Virginia continue to take steps that protect the health of their citizens, Ohio should not wait until a crisis arises in order to act.
As I mentioned above, my concern over these issues is shared by my constituents and by many worried citizens across the state. I trust that you will take this letter – and theirs – under serious consideration.
I look forward to your response.
Representative Robert F. Hagan
House District 58