BREAKING: Abandoned Ohio Gas Well Has Been Spilling For Over a Week

Sierra Club & Partners Call For Moratorium on Fracked Gas Projects, Potential Federal Action

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Contact:  Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

NOBLE COUNTY, OH — The Allegheny Front is reporting that a Noble County, Ohio fracked gas well has been spilling toxic radioactive oil and gas waste for over a week, with the fluid entering waterways and killing fish. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was notified on Sunday, January 24 of the spill, but was not able to contain the spewing fluid until Wednesday, January 27. Per federal law, a spill should have to be reported to the national response center, but as of today no such report appears to have been made. It is not yet clear if state authorities ever notified the public.

In response, Shelly Corbin, Campaign Representative in Ohio for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, released the following statement: “For too long, Ohioans have shouldered the risks of the fracked gas industry while polluting corporations reaped all the rewards. Enough is enough; Gov. DeWine should immediately issue a moratorium on fracked gas projects and the disposal of oil and gas waste in Ohio while strengthening commonsense protections for the health of our air, water, climate, and communities. If Gov. DeWine can’t protect the people of his own state from dirty, dangerous fracked gas projects, then the U.S. EPA should step in and use every power at its disposal to do so.”

In response, Teresa Mills, Executive Director of Buckeye Environmental Network released the following statement: “Ohio is like swiss cheese, there are an estimated 150,000 or more abandoned wells in Ohio that ODNR doesn’t even know the location of. As evidenced by the recent blowout, this is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen. We have been exposing Ohio as a radioactive dumping ground that accepts oil and gas waste from all over the region for more than ten years. The state follows the whims of the oil and gas industry over the residents and the environment. This must stop. Moreover, this well should have been plugged once it was determined to be non producing, according to ODNR’s own regulations.

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NOTE: THIS news is VERY relevant to the Powhatan/Mountaineer salt cavern permit proposal. Please reference this evidence of the interconnected, unpredictable, and UNCONTROLLABLE behavior of our land, its underground channels, and our drinking water in response to human meddling, in your comments on Powhatan, due Feb. 6.

Comment deadline 2-6-21: Call for ODNR Public Hearing and comment extension on dangerous saltcavern industrial permit

Speak out now for our rights to a safe region and planet! Write ODNR to oppose Powhatan (Mountaineer) underground salt cavern industrial storage immediately adjacent to the Ohio River!

Please demand a public hearing and extension of the comment period.  Comments due Feb. 6.

Powhatan Salt Company LLC has applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for three Class 3 solution-mining well permits to begin creating storage caverns in the Salina salt formation, just 2.5 miles north of Clarington, OH along the Ohio River in Monroe County. The storage caverns will initially be used to produce brine from the Salina formation 6,000 feet below the surface. The brine will be piped under the Ohio River to Natrium, WV, to a chemical plant, which produces chlorine from brine.

To create these storage caverns, Powhatan Salt Company would inject millions of gallons of freshwater underground at high pressures to carve out cavities in the salt. Powhatan would withdraw approximately 1,928,000 gallons of freshwater each day from the Ohio River to carve out the first cavern. More caverns could be constructed to increase storage capacity, which could require withdrawal of approximately 380,200,000 gallons of freshwater.

The application does not disclose that, as Powhatan Salt Co. LLC and its sister company Mountaineer NGL Storage LLC have stated in numerous news stories, they have actually intended to use the caverns for the storage of natural gas liquids like ethane, propane, butanes and possibly hydrogen extracted from fracking. This use not only creates additional explosive and contamination hazards but also supports proliferation of fracking and its climate impacts and increases the massive amount of toxic, radioactive waste generated by this industrial process. Ohio Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class 3 permitting does not require modification of the permit even if this drastic change of use occurs.

Please speak out now, by writing to ODNR, to help prevent this assault on our region and our climate. Please demand a public hearing based on the significant health, environmental, and safety concerns of this project. Tell ODNR that, given these substantive health, safety, and environmental concerns, they must provide the opportunity for the people of the region to share our concerns in a public forum where people can hear one another and learn about the issues involved.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is currently reviewing Powhatan Salt Company’s application. The public has until Feb. 6 2021 to submit comments. Please submit your concerns and objections to this dangerous facility by February 6th to:

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management , 2045 Morse Road, Building F-2, Columbus, Ohio 43229-6693

Important to include: RE: UIC Well Applications Powhatan Salt Company LLC Salt-1 Salt-2 and Salt-3

or e-mail: oilandgas@dnr.ohio.gov

Sample letter.  Please personalize!

Re: UIC Well Applications Powhatan Salt Company LLC Salt-1 Salt-2 and Salt-3

To ODNR Director Mary Mertz and Division Oil and Gas Chief Eric Vendel:

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Department of Oil and Gas Resources Management must deny the three solution mining well permit applications submitted by Powhatan Salt Company for the construction of solution mining wells No. SALT – 1 SMP #2, No. SALT 2 – SMP #3, and No. SALT – 3 SMP #4.

The construction of solution mining wells will place our community’s public health and safety and natural resources at risk. Powhatan Salt Company’s (PSC) application is woefully lacking in information for the public to evaluate. Therefore, I demand a public hearing so the public can learn of and respond to the important issues raised therein in a public forum.

The following concerns are of such gravity and concern that Chief Vendel must hold a public hearing to address these substantive health, safety, and environmental issues, per OAC 1501:9-7-07 H(4)(c). I also call on the Chief to extend the comment period 60 days in order for the public to have adequate time to review the not yet available required fact sheet. A few of many significant issues regarding substantive health, environmental, and safety concerns:

  • The area of review on the map clearly shows a Class V well in the area of review, which is not identified by PSC in the application and which could be a conduit for whatever ends up in the caverns contaminating drinking water or groundwater supplies through breaches in the Class V well.
  • There are no monitoring wells indicated for the solution mines, which are necessary to detect any migration of toxic materials, and there are no seismic monitoring requirements to determine potential breaches of supposed containment. There is no emergency shutdown plan included in the applications. This is a significant problem both for brine, which could contaminate the drinking water of millions downstream, and for potential natural gas liquids (NGL) storage, which could likewise contaminate the drinking water of millions as well as cause blowouts immediately jeopardizing the lives of thousands in the region, either directly or by resultant hazardous air pollution. The inability to get blowouts under control is often due to lack of such monitoring.
  • Earthquakes are known throughout southeast Ohio, especially in recent years. A facility of this magnitude, with millions of gallons of water a day being injected under high pressure, and millions of gallons of either salty brine or, potentially, highly toxic NGLs could cause a disaster affecting millions of people in the region. ODNR must require Applicant to prove this cannot happen, because the public’s safety and health are in jeopardy.
  • There is no mention of the many abandoned underground mines throughout the area of the proposed caverns. There is no mention of fracking operations of CNX Gas LLC, which has a lateral within a ½ mile of the cavern site. How will the health and safety of the people near the operation not be jeopardized when the possibility of subsidence, conduits, and migration thus threaten the area?
  • Ohio law and rules do not require notification if the company changes its storage of river water to storage of NGL’s, which is what the project was intended to be several years ago. This is complete obfuscation from both the company and DOGRM! The public will not know that highly volatile liquid gas products will be transported through Southeast Ohio and stored in their community or upstream of their drinking water supplies. The company has no contingency plans for disasters. How does this NOT jeopardize public health and safety? This is one of many examples of the inadequacies and incompleteness of the application that require the chief to hold a public hearing under OAC 1501:9-7-07 H(4)(c).
  • Moreover, when Applicant converts the solution-mining caverns to create Applicant’s previously planned underground NGL storage, assuming the NGL storage will have a direct or an indirect connection to the interstate NGL pipeline network, a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by FERC will be required.  Receipt of that certificate should be made a permit requirement to be satisfied prior to conversion of the caverns created by solution mining to an underground storage facility. How will this be accomplished if there is no notification required of such a conversion?
  • The fact sheet required in OAC 1501:9-7-07 H(3)(a) does the public no good after this comment period and should be available to be commented on now. In that regard, the public comment period should be extended 60 days in order for the public to have adequate time for its review and use it to prepare for a public hearing.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME, COUNTY, STATE, and CONTACT INFO

Thank you. Please share!

 

Call or write Gov DeWine today to VETO SB 33 the Anti-protest Chill Bill

Senate Bill 33, the Anti-protest Chill Bill, passed the Ohio House and is on the Governor’s desk. Thousands of Ohioans have protested this bill because it will affect all of us protesting oil and gas assaults on our communities. The governor must veto this unconstitutional bill  that is intended to quash our FREE SPEECH rights. It also violates freedom of religion (see more below).

The mailboxes on the phone lines 614-466-3555 may be full. If so, try 614-644-4357 or write to Gov DeWine and tell him to VETO SB 33! governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/contact  (If you can’t get through this way, try calling again – I just got through by phone but not by e-mail.)

Ask DeWine to veto this unconstitutional, dangerous and unnecessary bill, which makes peaceful protests at oil and gas and other infrastructure sites felonies with high fines and prison sentences. It chills free speech and penalizes climate activists and citizens who are peacefully protesting dirty infrastructure in their communities and on their own land. 
Whether or not it is deemed unconstitutional and overturned in the future, it will CHILL FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS MEANWHILE.
It can also put grassroots organizations out of business, with $100,000 fines if convicted of encouraging any of the vaguely defined “tampering” at oil and gas and other infrastructure sites.

The fine print:

  1.    The bill intentionally chills constitutionally protected free speech rights with draconian fines and prison terms for peaceful activities. It is modeled on legislation by ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes right-wing corporate agendas through model legislation. (The Ohio Senate sponsor of the legislation, Frank Hoagland, has been a member of ALEC and owns a private surveillance company.)  The bill’s vague language, where “tampering” means changing “the physical location or physical condition of the property,” and “damage” is left undefined, means that peaceful gatherings can inadvertently lead to felony convictions, fines, and prison terms.  Even putting up fliers on telephone poles could be a felony under this legislation, since communications infrastructure is covered under it. That the law may be eventually deemed unconstitutional by the courts does nothing to protect citizens and organizations meanwhile from its draconian penalties and chilling effects! Thus the Governor allowing it to become law will have serious immediate and long-lasting consequences.
  2.    The bill is unnecessary since Ohio law already covers criminal trespass and vandalism in other statutes. This bill increases penalties specifically for oil and gas infrastructure sites, including pipelines, where Americans are increasingly focusing their concern for public health and the climate, due to the urgency of these issues. Americans have already been prosecuted for peaceful tree sitson their own land when that land has been confiscated and destroyed by pipeline companies! So peaceful activity at oil and gas gets more severely penalized than violent actions elsewhere!
  3.  The bill attacks freedom of religion, since, as UU Reverend JoanVanBecelaere states, it “prohibits justice-oriented faith traditions from exercising what they believe is their religious duty to engage in public witness at those places where the health and life of people are endangered and the sacred integrity of the environment is put in jeopardy.”
  4.    Organizations that may promote such gatherings can be fined up to $100,000 even though they cannot control the behavior of event attendees, which may include agent provocateurs, who thus can financially destroy the grassroots organizations working on the frontlines of the climate justice movement.
  5. A United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights communicated with the U.S. government in 2017 stated that such bills “would highly curtail the rights to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly in ways that are incompatible with U.S. obligations under international human rights law, in particular Articles 19 and 21 of the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], as well as the First Amendment of the American Constitution.”

governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/contact or  phone 614-466-3555, 614-644-4357

Read testimony at statehouse committee hearings here. (There were eight proponents- all representing industry and agencies, and 171 opponents. ) Thousands have signed petitions against the bill, but many Ohioans have never heard of it! Please call or write the Governor TODAY! He could sign anytime. If he doesn’t sign or veto in 10 days, it becomes law.

 

 

 

550 groups call for #plastic-free president with presidential action plastics plan

See the plan at plasticfreepresident.org. ACFAN is one of 550 endorsing groups, listed there.

Coalition Press Release, December 8, 2020
Contact:

Julie Teel Simmonds, Center for Biological Diversity, (619) 990-2999, JteelSimmonds@biologicaldiversity.org
Yvette Arellano, Fenceline Watch, (281) 919-5762, fencelinewatch@gmail.com
Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation, (949) 492-8170, ahowe@surfrider.org
Cate Bonacini, Center for International Environmental Law, (202) 742-5847, cbonacini@ciel.org

550 Groups Ask Biden to Solve Plastic Pollution Crisis With Eight Executive Actions

Presidential Plastics Action Plan Urges Incoming President to Stop New Plastic Production, Regulate Petrochemical Industry, Reduce Plastic Pollution

WASHINGTON— A coalition of more than 550 community and conservation organizations today released its Presidential Plastics Action Plan, urging President-elect Joe Biden to take eight key executive actions to solve the plastic pollution crisis.

These include a moratorium on new plastic production facilities, using federal purchasing power to curb single-use plastics, tightening up regulation of the petrochemical industry, ending fossil fuel subsidies and protecting environmental justice communities from pollution.

The plan responds to the plastic industry’s aggressive expansion of facilities using the country’s oversupply of fracked gas to make throwaway plastic that fills our oceans, landfills and landscapes. Petrochemical-plastic projects harm frontline communities with toxic air and water pollution and worsen the climate crisis.

“President-elect Biden can begin solving the plastic pollution crisis in his first days in office without any help from Congress,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Implementing this historic plan would protect vulnerable frontline communities and marine life while addressing a key driver of climate change. It’s time to rein in the fossil fuel industry’s insidious plans to keep fracking for plastic and polluting poor communities here and around the world.”

The Presidential Plastics Action Plan includes detailed steps Biden can take as part of eight priority actions:

  1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products;
  2. Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports;
  3. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions;
  4. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors;
  5. Update existing federal regulations using the best available science and technology to curtail pollution from plastic facilities;
  6. Stop subsidizing plastic producers;
  7. Join international efforts to address the global plastic pollution crisis through new and strengthened multilateral agreements;
  8. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of abandoned, discarded and lost fishing gear.

“There is nothing common-sense about increasing cancer rates, sterility, or developmental issues in poor communities of color just for plastic. I support the Presidential Plastics Acton Plan because plastic is not worth the sacrifice,” said Yvette Arellano with Fenceline Watch. “My state of Texas leads the country in rates of uninsured people yet is home to the largest petrochemical complex; more plastic will only benefit one of those. Instead let’s reinvest in healthcare, healthy jobs, education, and ending a global pandemic.”

Today’s plan builds on the momentum of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution movement and the bill by the same name. The plan is endorsed by 551 groups, from national environmental organizations to small community groups fighting plastic pollution.

“Plastic production and pollution impact public health, the environment, and climate and it has reached crisis levels around the world, with the United States as one of the biggest contributors. It is for this reason that Sen.Tom Udall, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and I introduced the comprehensive Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act this year, and will reintroduce it next year,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). “The Presidential Plastics Action Plan lays out how the incoming Biden Administration can lead on this plastic waste issue and enact real solutions like updating important regulations and greater cooperation with the international community. We are running out of time to deal with this crisis, but our bill and the Presidential Plastics Action Plan are important approaches to put us on the right track moving forward.”

The plan dispels the industry-promoted myth that most plastic can be recycled, citing federal figures that only about 8% of plastic consumed in the United States is recycled. Plastic pollution accumulating in the oceans is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.

“Surfrider Foundation normally approaches this problem through beach cleanups and proactively with the power of legislative proposals, but there’s untapped potential in the executive branch,” said Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation’s legal director. “We’re calling upon this power today to solve the crisis of plastic pollution. Our ocean is dying a death of a thousand cuts, and we need a powerful, multifaceted approach to address it.”

The plan calls for Biden to appoint a Plastic Pollution Czar to coordinate plastic reduction efforts across federal agencies and internationally. It also asks him to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new ways to measure and reduce plastic pollution and to update and better enforce its decades-old regulations for petrochemical plants that make plastic – something many groups behind this plan also demanded of the EPA in a pair of legal petitions last year.

“Rejoining the international community means not only rejoining Paris, it means joining the global fight against plastics as a partner, not an obstruction,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law. “President-elect Biden should commit the United States to actively support a new global treaty on plastic pollution; use U.S. trade power to support real development, not plastic polluters; and move quickly to reverse U.S. subsidies and export policies that are accelerating the plastic crisis globally.”

Today’s plan is endorsed by actress and activist Rosario Dawson, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and frontline activists like Sharon Lavigne, who is leading the fight against Formosa’s plan to build one of the world’s biggest plastic plants in St. James Parish, Louisiana.

“Plastics and the fossil fuels they’re created from are contributing to a global catastrophe. The more than 250,000 responsible businesses we represent stand ready to work with the Biden administration to reduce our reliance on plastic,” said David Levine, president and cofounder of the American Sustainable Business Council. “Together we can overhaul how we design, manufacture and distribute our products, transitioning from single-use plastics to a circular, sustainable economy that creates new business opportunities and more jobs.”

Anti-plastic activists across the country also recorded segments for a new video urging Biden to adopt the plan and become the first #PlasticFreePresident. They also projected anti-plastic messages on significant buildings in San Francisco, New Orleans and other cities. The video and images are available for media use here.

“Everyone in America—regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, or how wealthy their community is—should be able to take a breath or pour a glass of water without ingesting dangerous chemicals and microscopic plastics,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley. “Nobody wants to go to the beach and see mountains of single-use plastic waste. And plastic production is a major driver of pollution accelerating the climate crisis that has already claimed lives and livelihoods in every corner of our country.  America was creative enough to invent a million uses for plastic, and now we have to use that creativity to clean up our act and design better alternatives.  Our kids’ health and futures depend on America tackling this urgent problem.”

Convening partners for the plan are Azulita Project, Beyond Plastics, Break Free From Plastic, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Coalfield Justice, Center for International Environmental Law, Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education, Clean Air Council, Earthworks, Food and Water Watch, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Last Beach Clean Up, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and Wishtoyo Foundation.

For a full list of supporting organizations, click here.

ACFAN pr: U.S. District Court Order vindicates environmental community, slams Wayne NF for frack leasing

Note: corrected url for comments and working group reports inserted below, 3-17-20. AND see our new video from our visit to the Wayne on March 3 on ACFAN’s video page.

Athens OH March 16, 2020­––U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson issued an Opinion and Order last week in Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. U.S. Forest Service et al., requiring the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to redo their environmental analysis of the potential harms from fracking in the Wayne National Forest. Judge Michael Watson said the agencies “demonstrated a disregard for the different types of impacts caused by fracking in the Forest. The agencies made decisions premised on a faulty foundation.” In his ruling Friday, the judge said the agencies ignored potential harm from fracking to endangered Indiana bats, waters of the Little Muskingum, and the region’s air quality. (Center’s pr and link to ruling at biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/court-stalls-fracking-leases-in-ohios-only-national-forest-2020-03-13/)

Heather Cantino, Athens County’s Future Action Network steering committee chair, involved in opposing Wayne frack leasing since 2011, stated, “The Order vindicates our community’s decades-long efforts, our broken-record appeals to the Wayne to use science and listen to public concerns. We have pointed out, since September 2011 when the Wayne first tried to lease for fracking, that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the Forest to use up-to-date science and listen to public concerns, especially on highly controversial environmental issues. Thousands of community members and a hundred thousand petitioners around the U.S. have spoken out against Wayne leasing.” Cantino added, “The Court slammed the Wayne for trying to build a case for frack leasing by stacking one ‘flimsy review’ on another equally inadequate one, like a house of cards. The House of Cards is finally falling! We thank the Center for Biological Diversity for its diligent work to legally challenge the Wayne, which led to this fantastic victory.”

Cantino noted that she, Roxanne Groff, and Christine Hughes, all ACFAN steering committee members, formed and led a working group in 2018 to participate in the Wayne planning process for a new Forest Plan. Their Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies submitted a 117-page report in January 2019, providing the Wayne with hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles and other documentation on the importance of ecological forest management to protect climate, rare old forest diversity, air, water, and local economies. “Not one of these citations is referenced, let alone assessed, in the Wayne’s Draft Assessment for their new Plan,” stated Roxanne Groff, chair of the working group. “We certainly hope that this will be remedied, given that the Court has so strongly echoed our outrage and disgust at the Wayne’s shoddy process.

ACFAN urges people to speak up by the Monday, March 23 deadline to comment on the Draft Assessment (contact info at acfan.org). “We encourage people to tell the Wayne yet again that fracking, logging, and burning destroy precious old forest diversity and ability to protect climate and also pollute air and water. These practices must be evaluated in thorough, up-to-date science with public scrutiny–the ‘hard look’ required by NEPA–as we have been telling them ad nauseum,” Groff noted, adding, “We trust that they will now finally listen.” The Working Group’s report and others are available in the Wayne Planning Reading Room (https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ReadingRoom?project=53485) [url corrected 3-17-20]. Wayne planning process information at fs.usda.gov/detail/wayne/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd695580.

Previous post (below) has more great quotes from the judge’s ruling and more. Sample COMMENTS here.

Please submit comments on Wayne Draft Assessment for new Forest Plan. Comments due March 23.

We have less than a week to submit comments on the Wayne National Forest’s Draft Assessment documents prepared as part of its planning process for a new Forest Plan. Comments are due March 23.

Please tell the Wayne to listen to public concern, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to take the “hard look” required by NEPA at the environmental impacts of its management decisions. The Wayne’s prioritizing of logging, burning, and fracking, as spelled out in their Draft Assessment, is bad for climate, as well as for old forest biodiversity, air and water. Read a set of comments here. They incorporate language from last week’s U.S. District Court Opinion and Order in Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. U.S. Forest Service et al., which vindicate our efforts and broken-record appeals to the Wayne to use science and listen to the public as NEPA demands, especially of controversial environmental issues. The Court slams the Wayne for flimsy science and building one review on one after another equally flimsy one, like a house of cards.  Link to Court order at the Center’s press release on this win: biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/court-stalls-fracking-leases-in-ohios-onlynational-forest-2020-03-13/

Don’t feel obligated to make your comments long or fancy. Just tell the Wayne how you feel about our Forest and their management of it and that you want to be involved in the planning process and have your concerns HEARD and acknowledged.  Submit your comment here: cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=53485

Ask to be added to the Wayne’s e-mail list to receive notice of future  Wayne actions and opportunities to be involved: public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAFS/subscriber/new?topic_id=NEPA_453723_S

Please write to acfanohio [AT] gmail.com if you’d like to be added to our e-mail list. See acfan.org’s Wayne page for more information.

Thank you for raising your voice for our Forest, our climate, and our community!Maybe they’ll listen to the beings of the Forest better than they listen to us? Check out our VIDEO from this event now on ACFAN’s video page.

Wayne National Forest legal WIN!

Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for tirelessly litigating Wayne National Forest’s leasing for fracking (in spite of no EIS ever evaluating impacts of fracking, as pointed out by thousands of community activists ever since the Wayne’s first foiled attempt to lease in 2011).
The Center just published the following press release on their first WIN against the Wayne!   We grassroots activists in Ohio appreciate the Center’s support, engagement with us, and all their work to hold the Wayne accountable for its illegal and irresponsible actions.
For Immediate Release, March 13, 2020

Court Stalls Fracking Leases in Ohio’s Only National Forest

Ruling: Feds Overlooked Danger to Air, Wildlife, Watersheds

COLUMBUS, Ohio? A federal judge today stalled oil and gas leasing in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest, ruling** that the Trump administration failed to consider threats to public health, endangered species and watersheds before opening more than 40,000 acres of the forest for fracking.

U.S. District Judge Michael Watson said the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management “demonstrated a disregard for the different types of impacts caused by fracking in the Forest. The agencies made decisions premised on a faulty foundation.” Watson’s ruling requires the agencies to redo their environmental analysis of the potential harms from fracking in the Wayne.

“We’re thrilled the court is requiring the Trump administration to examine fracking’s serious threats to our air, water and forest wildlife,” said Wendy Park, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking is a dirty, dangerous business. This ruling helps ensure the health of this spectacular forest and its endangered animals and protects the water source for millions of people.”

In May 2017 conservation groups sued the Forest Service and the BLM over plans to permit fracking in the Wayne, saying federal officials had relied on an outdated plan and ignored significant environmental threats before approving fracking in the forest. The lawsuit also aimed to void two BLM lease sales. The court will decide later whether to void those existing leases, but a planned March sale will likely be postponed.

In today’s ruling, the judge said the agencies ignored potential harm from fracking to endangered Indiana bats, the waters of the Little Muskingum River and the region’s air quality.

“This is a huge win for people, for wildlife and for the forest,” said Nathan Johnson, attorney and public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council. “This effort dates back to at least 2011, when southeast Ohio communities came together to oppose fracking in the Wayne. Today’s ruling is a culmination of citizen effort and it reaffirms that federal agencies must consider the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.”

The BLM’s leasing plan would industrialize Ohio’s only national forest with roads, well pads and gas lines, the lawsuit asserts. This would destroy Indiana bat habitat, pollute watersheds and water supplies that support millions of people, and would endanger other federally protected species in the area.

“Today’s victory is a result of the tireless efforts from communities across southeast Ohio,” said Elly Benson, attorney for the Sierra Club. “We applaud this decision that will help protect the Wayne National Forest from fracking, allowing Ohioans ? and people from all over ? to continue to enjoy and explore the forest.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Here are some gems from the Court order:

A USFS Regional Office review of an internal draft of the 2012 SIR’s water source review is rife with comments pointing out how flimsy the 2012 SIR’s and in turn the 2006 EIS’s water resource review was. For example, when explaining that the Forest Hydrologist considered a “vast amount of information related to oil and gas fracturing activities,” the reviewer noted that “Sounds like the analysis of it the Plan EIS was not adequate…[t]he fact that the hydrologist had to consider vast amounts of information leads to the conclusion that the 2006 Forest Plan and EIS did not sufficiently account for the issue of fracking”…But instead of addressing the potential flaws raised by the comments, USFS removed the paragraphs at issue from the final 2012 SIR and replaced them with general language indicating that Ohio’s laws adequately protect water usage….Indeed, as the USFS commentator point out, “a lot of the material in the groundwater and surface water effects section is a restatement of standards, regulations, etc. rather than an actual effects analysis.” The Court could not have said it better. As is highlighted by the USFS reviewer’s comments, what is lacking from USFS’s review are the actual effects of the increased water needs for fracking in the Forest. What we have is basically a regurgitation of the 2006 EIS’s water plan discussion for conventional drilling, but there is no analysis or reasoned discussion of how, or whether, the vast amounts of water needed for fracking will pose different environmental risks. The Court finds that the 2006 Forest Plan and EIS did not sufficiently address the new and different impacts of fracking on water usage, particularly how fracking would affect the Little Muskingum River. The 2012 SIR’s cursory and conclusory review of the cumulative impacts on water depletion in the Forest from fracking did not cure the deficiency. (pp. 56-57)

…conclusory justifications…are meaningless when the record is devoid of any analysis or discussion of how the Little Muskingum River would be impacted by fracking activities in the WNF.  (p. 59)

The Court cannot conclude that impacts of fracking on the Indiana Bat were reasonably considered when the only supporting document – the 2005 BIOp – did not consider it at all, and the total surface disturbance, which impacts their habitats, was not adequately addressed. (p. 61)

USFS cannot tier its review [of air quality impacts] to the 2006 EIS if the air quality impacts of oil and gas leasing were not analyzed in that document. p. 65

NEPA is not designed to postpone analysis of an environmental consequence to the last possible moment. Rather, it is designed to require such analysis as soon as it can reasonably be done.

Federal agencies must comply with the requirements of NEPA and reach reasoned decisions on issues of environmental concern. Disclosure of information critical to decision-making is a primary function of NEPA. [T]he Court finds that USFS’s and BLMs failure to analyze the foreseeable impacts on the air quality from fracking activities was arbitrary and capricious.

The agencies made decisions based on a faulty foundation that the 2006 Forest Plan’s and 2006 EIS’s consideration of vertical drilling sufficiently accounted for the impacts of fracking. Each iteration of agency review built upon that faulty foundation – the 2016 EA relied on the 2012 SIR, which relied on the 2012 BLM letter, which relied on the 2006 Forest Plan and 2006 EIS – but neither USFS nor BLM stopped to take that ‘hard look’ that was required of them. Specifically, the Court finds that at the decision-to-lease phase, USFS and BLM failed to take a hard look at the impacts of fracking in WNF, including 1) surface area disturbance, 2) cumulative impacts on the Indiana Bat and the Little Muskingum River, and 3) impacts on air quality.

The Court agrees that additional briefing on remedies is the most prudent course of action to take.

Radioactive oil and gas waste on Ohio roads

BRINE FACTSHEET: Radioactive Liquid Waste from Oil & Gas Production

Buckeye Environmental Network

pdf available here

Ohio Department of Natural Resources tests confirm dangerously high levels of radium 226 & 228 in brine from oil and gas production wells. Brine is used on some Ohio roads as a de-icer and dust suppressant, where it gets into soil, can be tracked into homes or become airborne as radioactive dust, and can contaminate drinking water sources and agricultural products.

SOURCES for brines used on Ohio roads: Brines from conventional, low-volume oil and gas extraction wells can legally be and are ­­­used on many Ohio roads by some ODOT districts (covering at least 28 counties as of 2019) and by many counties and townships.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Oil and Gas Brine TEST RESULTS

Radioactive levels of radium 226 and 228 in brine from 151 oil & gas well samples.

Well Type # Wells Sampled Results*
Conventional (vertical, shallow) wells, the old mom & pop wells 118 66 to 9602 pCi/L**
Horizontal (deep) wells 25 173 to 3264 pCi/L
Out-of-state (brine disposed in OH) 8 54.6 to 9798 pCi/L
* Source: Tests completed for ODNR Radiation Safety Section, Division of Oil and Gas, cited in their memos of 1-23-18 and 7-2-18

** Picocuries: a measure of the intensity of radioactivity; piC/L reflects the intensity of radioactivity per liter of water.

Legal Exposure Limits: Ohio Administrative Code sets the legal limit for combined Radium-226 and Radium-228 discharge to the environment to 120 pCi/L. (OAC 3701:1-38-12, Appendix C, table II) US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard for combined Radium 226 and 228 is 5pCi/L. (40 CFR 141.66)

Health-based exposure limits: from Radioactive elements most commonly detected in drinking water Environmental Working Group Tap Water Database 2019 ewg.org/tapwater/reviewed-radiological.php

Element Primary health concern Detection level, in picocuries per liter Health-based limits (based on one-in-a-million cancer risk) National Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) in pCi/L Cancer risk at legal limit
Radium-226 & -228 Bone cancer, other cancers 1 0.05 pCi/L 5 pCi/L for combined radium 226+228 7 cancer cases per 100,000 exposed 

Health Effects and Dangers of Radium

 U.S. EPA and the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biological Ef­fects of Ionizing Radiation list radium as a known human carcinogen. (ATSDR ToxFAQs) Human exposure results in an increased incidence of bone, liver, and breast cancer. Radium-226 is especially dangerous because, unlike many radioactive isotopes, it dissolves readily in water. When the contaminated water is ingested, the body mistakes Ra-226 for dissolved calcium and deposits it in bones. Radium-226 is thus called a bone seeker. Radium 226 and 228 are the parents of radon gas, a major cause of lung cancer.

USEPA has set a health guideline of zero for all radioactive elements in drinking water. However, federal legal limits for radiation and radioactive contaminants are based on the cost of removing contaminants and don’t necessarily reflect exposure levels considered safe by public health and medical officials. Since detection limits (minimum level needed for detectability) of radioactive substances in water are higher than health-based guidelines, even residents of communities with “no detected radiation” may face cancer risks from radioactivity in drinking water.

We have been told over and over that brine spreading is safe because it is from waste produced by conventional wells rather than unconventional horizontal wells. As we suspected all along, this assumption is false; waste from conventional wells can be highly radioactive. Radium 226 has a half-life of 1,600 years, meaning that in 1,600 years half of the radium concentration will still be present. Thus for the highest concentration tested from an Ohio well (9,602 picocuries), the concentration will still be 4,801 picocuries 1,600 years from now.

 AQUASALINA

 Aqua Salina is a product made by filtering brine from conventional wells and adding an anti-corrosive chemical. It has been sold to the general public as well as currently to the State of Ohio for use on our roads. A legislative bill introduced in 2018 (HB 393; SB 165), now in limbo, sought to protect this product from future regulation.

All samples of AquaSalina tested by ODNR exceeded federal Drinking Water legal limits for combined Ra-226 and Ra-228, averaging 1,731 pCi/L, or 346 times the EPA standard. The highest concentration found (from a container of AquaSalina purchased from a hardware store in Hartville, OH) was almost 500 times the standard. Ra-226 and Ra-228 radioactivity in all samples also exceeded State of Ohio limits for discharge to the environment (OAC 3701:1-38-12, App. C, Table II, Effluent Concentrations). The combined radium Ra226/Ra228 concentration in all samples of post-production AquaSalina, other than the Hartville Hardware sample, averaged within 10% of each other at 1,578.6 pCi/l. (ODNR Interoffice Memo 7/26/17; pdf at benohio.org issues page)

  • Aquasalina is approved for road use in 224 townships/municipalities in Ohio.
  • Ohio Department of Transportation also uses AquaSalina on state roads in 29 counties.

Additional Concerns about the Approval Process for Oil&Gas Brine-spreading

  • Approvals authorize multiple applications per roadway and do not have an expiration date.
  • The specific batch of oil or gas brine used does not have to be tested for radioactivity.
  • Testing for naturally occurring radioactive materials is not required.
  • There are no provisions for follow-up monitoring or enforcement of radioactivity in the environment.

Under federal and state Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations, any waste containing radioactive concentrations exceeding those designated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (10 CFR 20 Appendix B, Table 2, Column 2) must be treated as radioactive and disposed of accordingly. For both radium226 and radium228 the threshold is 60 pCi/L, for a combined threshold of 120 pCi/L. Only legal exemptions for oil and gas industry waste allow this radioactive waste to be both sold as a commodity and used indiscriminately on public roads with no assessment of environmental and public health impacts. Allowing the spreading of radioactive waste in the environment is a serious health issue that must be halted now!

For more info, contact info@benohio.org. Useful background and links at rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/oil-gas-fracking-radioactive-investigation-937389/, published 1-21-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buckeye Environmental Network, benohio.org and on fb

 

Please submit comments and NEW MEETING REQUEST on Johnson Run to OEPA by Monday 10-14-19

Please ask OEPA for another meeting on the Johnson Run stripmine water degradation permit, still in process, by Monday, Oct. 14, even if you’ve submitted comments previously. And thanks to all who attended and to those who spoke at the hearing this week. It was a great showing of public knowledge and opposition to this sham permitting process.

New language to consider including (see previous post for additional talking points):
Dear Director Stevenson,
Based on new information obtained Monday October 7 at the public hearing where Erin Sherer identified the water quality in Johnson Run as being Exceptional Warm Water Habitat (EWH) and due to the presence of one coldwater fish and seven coldwater macroinvertebrates as OEPA staff emails document, the water quality of Johnson Run cannot be allowed to be lowered to warm water habitat (WWH) as that will be below the attainable  and existing use of the stream. This would violate federal antidegradation policy under 40 CFR 131.12.
It is not true that rulemaking must be done to establish designated use before maintaining and protecting the existing use of Johnson Run. EWH is the existing use of the stream ever since the stream was tested and species recorded. It is in the public’s best interest to have another meeting to fully explain and be transparent as to how the EPA will protect the special and unique species in Johnson Run.
A permit must not be granted that would violate federal Antidegradation rules under 40 CFR 131.12.
Send your request and comments to OEPA Director Laurie Stevenson laurie.stevenson@epa.ohio.gov, and please cc scott.foster@epa.ohio.gov and USEPA at R5NPDES@epa.gov. Use identification, C.CU, Johnson Run OIL00168*AD .
Thank you!

OEPA hearing: Johnson Run stripmine water degradation permit, Monday, Oct. 7, 6 pm at Burr Oak Lodge

CARPOOLING FROM ATHENS COMMUNITY CENTER SOLAR PANELS AT 5 PM

OEPA is holding another public hearing on the discharge permit for the proposed strip mine in Trimble Township, Athens County. This is the second public hearing on this permit, and the OEPA has once again got it wrong! OEPA’s director wants to lower the water quality of Johnson Run, which will destroy the stream. There is NO justification for this mine.  The OEPA is violating federal antidegradation law by permitting it. We need to pack the room and tell OEPA that our voices will be heard and federal law followed!

Comments can also be sent to scott.foster@epa.ohio.gov (include Johnson Run Mine NPDES OILOO168*AD). Also send to USEPA Region 5, R5NPDES@epa.gov; include Johnson Run OIL00168*AD CCU LLC. Please share widely and join us! 

TALKING POINTS

(Issues to Address in Written Comments and/or Oral Testimony)

OEPA has not complied with federal Antidegradation Regulations, 40 CFR 131.12!

Federal Antidegradation policy and implementation methods clearly state:

  • Existing in-stream water uses and the level of water quality necessary to protect the existing uses (the highest levels of aquatic life currently present in the stream) shall be maintained and protected.
  • In allowing degradation or lowered water quality, the State shall assure water quality adequate to protect existing uses fully.

OEPA staff identified in their field testing of Johnson Run (2017) and then in testing by the consulting firm (CEC, 2018) the presence of 7 coldwater and 21 key macro-invertebrate taxa that indicate high-quality streams and one coldwater fish species. These communities consisted of high levels of sensitive (intolerant to pollution) and coldwater-adapted species. These species establish Johnson Run’s existing use.

OEPA is trying to avoid required protections by lowering the water quality in Johnson Run. This action by the director will NOT protect the existing use of the stream and is therefore illegal.

The most important point to make in comments and testimony:  Ohio EPA buried the information about what was found in Johnson Run stream and therefore will not protect Johnson Run’s coldwater fish, coldwater and key indicator macro-invertebrates, or water quality necessary to support these existing uses. This Violates the Federal Antidegradation Rule!

We must demand another public meeting to follow the one on Oct. 7 to answer ALL comments and questions presented by the public.

Comments can be submitted to Scott Foster scott.foster@epa.ohio.gov reference Johnson Run Mine OIL00168*AD or mail OEPA, SE District Office, 2196 Front Street, Logan Ohio 43138. Please cc your comments to OEPA director Laurie Stevenson laurie.stevenson@epa.ohio.gov and to USEPA Region 5, R5NPDES@epa.gov; include “CCU, Johnson Run Mine OIL00168*AD” in the subject line.

E-mail acfanohio@gmail.com for more information.