Activists Rally in Columbus Against Waste Disposal
“Don’t Waste Ohio” Legislator Accountability Day Highlights the Dangers of Fracking Waste Disposal
Columbus, Ohio - A coalition of local, statewide and national groups concerned about toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” gathered at the Statehouse today for “Don’t Waste Ohio” Legislator Accountability Day. The coalition called for an end to the state being used as a regional dumping ground for oil and gas waste. Participants in the afternoon rally met with their legislators in the morning, advocating for passage of legislation in both the House and Senate that would ban underground injection of fracking waste.
In 2012, the City of Cincinnati banned the underground injection of waste in order to prevent oil and gas waste wells from being permitted within city limits. Following the unanimous vote on the ordinance, and residents called on local area State Representative Denise Driehaus to take action on the issue on the state level. Along with fellow co-sponsor Representative Robert Hagan of Youngstown; Rep. Driehaus introduced House Bill 148, which would enact a statewide ban on the underground injection of fracking waste. Senator Skindell followed suit by introducing the same legislation in the Senate.
“It’s like we have a sign on our backs here in Ohio for the industry saying ‘Dump your waste here.’ We don’t know what is in the waste or how radioactive it really is, and the leaders in the state legislature haven’t even allowed the legislation to be open for testimony from the public,” said Alison Auciello, an organizer for Food & Water Watch.
“We need to protect Ohio communities, not risk them for cheap, easy disposal of the oil and gas industry’s dirty leftovers,” said Auciello.
In 2013, drillers disposed of nearly 700 million gallons of fracking waste, injecting it underground in Ohio, an increase of 100 million gallons from the previous year, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) conducting only limited and random sampling to identify what toxins were in the waste. The Ohio Department of Health Radiation Protection Program, to date, has conducted only one batch of sampling of the solid and liquid waste for the presence of radioactivity, yet the state is moving forward with new rules governing its disposal.
“What is shocking is how quickly the administration and ODNR move forward to allow more and more waste injection without knowing the effects underground. We’ve seen problematic injection wells, sporadic inspections and earthquakes. But, the agency charged with protecting us sounds just like the oil and gas industry when they minimize or dismiss the problems,” said Susie Beiersdorfer, geologist and member of Frackfree Mahoning Valley.
“Just like our legislative leaders, it looks like ODNR is protecting the industry rather than the residents of our state,” Beiersdorfer said.
Under Ohio regulation, local municipalities and residents cannot appeal issued permits or decide where and whether fracking activity happens in their community. There is a short public comment period for injection well permit applications, but despite overwhelming opposition to new injection wells in the comments received, ODNR has moved forward to issue new permits. The ODNR is currently working on rules that would govern the disposal of the solid waste from fracking.
Kip Rondy, farmer and owner of Green Edge Gardens, is concerned enough about the legacy that Ohio will be left with from fracking waste disposal and the lack of a state response to community concerns that he was arrested with eight other community members blocking an injection well accepting waste in his Athens county.
Rondy told the court on behalf of the arrestees, “The ODNR has failed to hold public hearings concerning the proposed injection well, ignored and denied lawful information requests, and continues to act in a capricious and arbitrary manner concerning the citizen's stated objections. It is then, when we the Citizenry of Athens County, facing the real and permanent threat to our aquifer, our air, our earth - when the will of lawfully elected officials is ignored - that the acts of civil disobedience before the court today are not merely justified, but become obligatory.”
Over half of the waste injected each year has come from out-of-state fracking operations. Ohio is home to 202 active injection well sites, with 234 total permits as of the beginning of March, as compared to five active injection wells in neighboring Pennsylvania.
Don’t Waste Ohio Planning Committee: Frack Free Ohio; Food & Water Watch; Frack Free Mahoning Valley; Sierra Club Ohio Chapter; Ohio Student Environmental Coalition; Energy Action Coalition; Athens County Fracking Action Network; NEOGAP (Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection); Stark Summit Coalition; Buckeye Forest Council; Center for Health, Environment