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Friday, January 31, 2014

Ohio Rep. Hagan Sounds the Alarm Over Radioactive Fracking Waste

Ohio State Rep. Robert Hagan
From the Ohio House of Representatives:
State Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) sent letters on Monday 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.”
Here is the text of the letter:
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 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. 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. 
Sincerely,
 
Representative Robert F. Hagan
House District 58 

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