Two Anti-Drilling Organizations Take Legal Action to Address Ohio's "Unregulated" Fracking Waste Facilities

Press release:

Two organizations devoted to protecting water sources from dangerous oil and gas industry activity have filed a key motion in an Ohio court, challenging oil and gas waste disposal practices. On Friday, February 27, 2015, Food & Water Watch and the FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) filed a motion for summary judgment against the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) in the Franklin County Court of Appeals. The groups seek an order, which would require Governor John Kasich’s administration to impose environmental and safety standards on the industrial disposal of oil and gas drilling wastes. 
Dozens of plant facilities in eastern Ohio have received so-called “Chief’s Orders”from the ODNR, which authorizes the handling, processing, storage, recycling and disposal of radioactive and chemically-toxic liquid and solid wastes generated by horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking.” State law requires regulations to be written to limit the activities of such facilities, but the ODNR has authorized dozens of facilities to open without any such rules in place. The state government denies that such facilities are operating unregulated, but Ohio citizens continue to track the activities of these facilities near their communities out of concern for their air, water and property values.

Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch says that though lawmakers and the Governor assured the public that this law would stop low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry from reaching solid waste landfills, the law has effectively allowed information about where the waste is going to be hidden from the public. “I’ve asked for the radioactive sampling results that were required by law, and the Ohio Dept. of Health [ODH] is telling me those results are protected under trade secrets. Further, ODH couldn’t tell me which agency is ultimately keeping track of the results or if any of them are. If Governor Kasich is really concerned about Ohio being used as a dumping ground, his administration is surely missing the mark. It’s a shame that it takes a lawsuit to get the administration to even comply with their own laws, let alone allow the dumping of the waste to be transparent to the public,” says Auciello.

“We filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to ask the courts to expedite this important decision in the public interest. This case is becoming unnecessarily prolonged and complicated,” stated Terry Lodge, attorney for FWAP. “We’re asking the court to simply decide that the state must regulate these facilities. The state legislature never intended for frack waste facilities to operate without necessary regulations in place.”

“We have seen what can happen in states that allowed fracking and waste processing and disposal without adequate regulations, such as Pennsylvania. Now Pennsylvania is trying to track where frack waste was dumped and measure levels of radioactivity and toxicity after the fact,” stated Lea Harper, Managing Director of FWAP. “Instead of learning from others’ mistakes, Ohio is allowing the reckless disposal of frack waste without regulation while our governor, legislature and regulators look the other way. It really is unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to ask the courts to intervene because elected officials are not doing their job. Instead of representing the best interests of the public, they are allowing Ohio to become the frack waste dumping ground of choice for huge corporate profits at a terrible public loss. Hopefully, the courts will intercede, grant the motion and decide to implement the required regulations soon, before it is too late.”

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