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.

New Ohio anti-protest bill, SB 33, facing passage – act now!

Updated 4-27-19: Last chance to submit testimony, with a possible Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee vote this week on SB 33, which would criminalize protests at oil and gas infrastructure way beyond ordinary trespass or even criminal mischief penalties. The bill also targets organizations seen to support such protests with fines of 10x those imposed on individuals, up to $100,000, clearly meant to chill dissent and free speech. 

NUMBERS count. Please write to oppose this dangerous bill, whether or not you personally participate in environmental protests! At a time of climate catastrophe, we especially must support nonviolent civil disobedience done for the sake of our climate and a livable planet. The constitutional freedoms of all are at stake. Please write! Even a short statement is helpful. 
 
Both written testimony and testimony intended to be delivered orally in person must be sent by 9:15 a.m. on TUESDAY, April 30 to Senate Judiciary Committee chair, John Eklund,
eklund@ohiosenate.gov. Please send a statement even if you don’t wish to testify in person. Either fill in (use “edit” tool) or include the information requested on the attached with your letter. If you would like to testify in person, the hearing is Wed., May 1 at 9:15 a.m. in the Senate North Hearing Room.
Please also write to the State Senate President Senator Larry Obhof <obhof@ohiosenate.gov>  to ask him not to bring this bill to the floor for a vote if it passes the Judiciary Committee, which it will likely do. And contact your State Senator and House Representative to tell them why you oppose this bill.

The bill singles out protests at oil and gas infrastructure, among other specified places, for felony charges for criminal mischief and other activities that are normally considered misdemeanors (as specified in the bill). It makes non-violent trespassing on oil and gas infrastructure subject to much greater punishment than actions elsewhere that even risk harm to people!  (see punishments for 2911.211. (A)(1)  vs. (A)(2) below:

From the bill: “Sec. 2909.07. (A)(7) Without privilege to do so, knowingly destroy or improperly tamper with a critical infrastructure facility ….(4) Criminal mischief committed in violation of division (A)(7) of this section is a felony of the third degree .

“…Notwithstanding section 2929.31 of the Revised Code, any organization found guilty of complicity in a violation of that division under section 2923.03 of the Revised Code shall be punished with a fine that is ten times the maximum fine that can be imposed on an individual for a felony of the third degree .

“…Sec. 2911.211. (A)(1) No person shall enter or remain on the land or premises of another with purpose to commit on that land or those premises a misdemeanor, the elements of which involve causing physical harm to another person or causing another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to him that person.

A (2): No person shall enter or remain o n a critical infrastructure facility with purpose to destroy or tamper with the facility . (B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of aggravated trespass,. Aggravated trespass in violation of division (A)(1) of this section is a misdemeanor of the first degree. Aggravated trespass in violation of division (A)(2) of this section is a felony of the third degree.”

If this (pictured) is “tampering,” it will mean activists practicing such nonviolent direct action to expose the high crimes of the oil industry will be subject to draconian fines and felony charges, and organizations deemed to promote the activity will be subject to ten times the fines leveled against individuals, even though the organizations likely have no control over the actions of individuals.

Ohio Senate Bill 33 (similar to Ohio SB 250, which passed the Senate last session but was not then considered by the Ohio House) is a dangerous assault on civil liberties and free speech. It is unnecessary, since trespass is already covered by Ohio law. The legislation is clearly meant to intimidate individuals and, even more dangerously, non-profit organizations that organize people to speak out against assaults by the oil and gas industry against our communities, climate, and public health. Under the bill, organizations can be held liable for others’ actions through guilt by association, with ten times greater penalties than penalties individuals would receive. This can only be intended to squelch environmental advocacy, so essential at this time of accelerating climate chaos.

SB 33 is vague, arbitrary, inconsistent with the Ohio Revised Code, unnecessary, and clearly unconstitutional. It violates due process by arbitrarily – with no definition- singling out certain infrastructure that it merely labels, with no justification or definition, “critical.” It thus targets people and even more so organizations deemed to support actions at these arbitrarily labeled sites for unfair extra punishment, a violation of due process, and is clearly intended to chill dissent, a fundamental violation of First Amendment rights. The specification of ten times higher penalties for “organizations” deemed to support covered activity (who clearly cannot control actions of people — including agent provocateurs often embedded in protests by industry or the government — is clearly intended to intimidate, relying on this chilling effect that has been clearly ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in multiple decisions since the 1950s. 

As Inside Climate News recently reported, “‘Even where these bills are simply introduced, even if they do not move, even if they do not become law, they have potential to chill free speech and curtail activism,’ said Maggie Ellinger-Locke, a staff attorney with Greenpeace. ‘We’re hearing from people on the frontlines of activism in these states that these bills frighten them.'”

Legislation here: ohiosenate.gov/legislation/GA133-SB-33See Senate Judiciary Committee website or Buckeye Environmental Network’s resource page for testimony given previously on SB 33 and SB 250 (last session’s version).

Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee members:

Senator Position District Phone Email
EKLUND, John Chair  (REP) 18th Dist 614-644-7718 eklund@ohiosenate.gov
MANNING, Nathan H. Vice Chair (REP) 13th Dist 614-644-7613 manning@ohiosenate.gov
THOMAS, Cecil Ranking Minority Dem 9th Dist  614-466-5980 thomas@ohiosenate.gov
COLEY II, William P. REP  4th Dist 614-466-8072 coley@ohiosenate.gov
FEDOR, Teresa   . Dem 11th Dist 614-466-5204 fedor@ohiosenate.gov
Gavarone, Theresa REP  2nd Dist 614-466-8060 gavarone@ohiosenate.gov
HUFFMAN, Matt REP 12th Dist 614-466-7584 huffman@ohiosenate.gov
LEHNER, Peggy REP 6th Dist 614-466-4538 lehner@ohiosenate.gov
MCCOLLEY, Rob REP 1st Dist 614-466-8150 mccolley@ohiosenate.gov
O’BRIEN, Sean Dem 32nd Dist 614-466-7182 obrien@ohiosenate.gov

Sample letter. Please PERSONALIZE. Personal letters carry a lot more weight than copy and paste letters. Thanks.

Dear Senator Eklund,

Please oppose Senate Bill 33, an anti-democratic and redundant bill designed to protect the assets of fossil fuel industries, while intimidating and bankrupting conscientious objectors and their supporters.

Laws already exist to charge those who make the hard choice to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience in our communities.  Industries have the right and the means to protect their property, and citizens have the right to protest industrial activity that we believe is harmful or immoral.  Industries have profits to protect, and citizens have health and safety to preserve, for ourselves and our children.  When these two objectives clash, we have a court system to help determine which objective takes priority.

 SB 33 is an unnecessary bill that unfairly targets those rightfully alarmed young citizens who will suffer the most from climate impacts caused by the fossil fuel industry’s decades of denial.  Thank you for opposing Senate Bill 33.

Sincerely, Christine Hughes, Athens

DON’T be fooled by lies coming from Sen. Hoagland’s office. (Bill sponsor, Sen. Hoagland is a member of the rightwing American Legislative Council, which is sponsoring similar bills around the country as discussed in the Inside Climate News piece and elsewhere.) The bill does NOT state that only organizations that “PAY people to protest,” as claimed by Hoagland’s aide, are subject to the draconian fines!! (What real environmental organization pays protestors? NONE!) The bill will penalize organizations deemed to promote actions covered by this bill, even though an organization has no control over what individuals do. These and other lies are intended to obfuscate, silence dissent, and enable an industry-supported bill that will give a free pass to fossil fuel companies to continue wreaking havoc with our communities and our planet. Stop SB 33 now!

Why aren’t hospitals considered ‘critical infrastructure’? And schools? Why is it only dirty fossil fuel corporate infrastructure that’s deemed critical? Because they’re obviously targets of first amendment protests due to their infliction of harm and the urgency, well understood by hundreds of millions of people, to avert climate disaster within the decade. The urgency and seriousness of climate catastrophe, outlined the most recent federal 4th National Climate Assessment (whose first sentence reads: “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”), is well understood by the educated public, including judges, such that the NECESSITY defense has now been used successfully* in courtrooms, even when there has been clear intent to obstruct operation of these sites.

* Note that although this news coverage questions whether the necessity defense was granted, a separate legal analysis (see entry #10 on the Mass. case) notes “At the civil infraction hearing, the judge found all defendants not responsible and acceded to a defense request to note that the ruling was by reason of necessity.” Yes!!

And for some perspective on this bill in relation to ALEC and the larger assault against the climate movement and on strategies used to counter the corporate-government assaults, see the excellent overview by the National Lawyers’ Guild (3/14/19): The Attack on Climate Justice Movements.

Check Judiciary Committee’s website each Friday (late afternoon) or write to acfanohio [at] gmail.com to be notified of future hearings and  opportunities to submit formal testimony. There’s always very little notice from the Senate committee chair, so preparing testimony ahead is highly advised.

Ohioans work to get a better Wayne Forest Plan

The Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only National Forest, has begun the process of revising its principal document, the Forest Management Plan. Under the 2012 USFS Planning Rule, this process must address climate impacts and include a rigorous effort to engage the public during all phases of Plan development. The Wayne Planning Team has been meeting with interested parties for several months and is reviewing submissions by hundreds of citizens and stakeholders about what must be changed from the current 2006 Plan, which must be considered in its forthcoming Draft Assessment.

The Wayne Planning Team created several working groups to give input. Ohio University and Marietta College are each receiving $100,000 for specific work, the latter for an assessment of oil and gas “assets”. Landowners and representatives of recreation, renewable energy, biodiversity, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness interests are participating as volunteers. When members of BEN and ACFAN realized there were no concerned-citizen groups, we initiated one: the Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies. Folks from all over Ohio who seek deep changes to current destructive Wayne management, which is supposedly governed by the highly flawed 2006 Plan, met by phone over a 3-month period and produced a 120-page document, recently submitted to the planning team. The report outlines the group’s concerns and recommendations, many drawn directly from the Economic Analysis of the 2006 Wayne National Forest Plan, commissioned by Heartwood and produced in 2008 by Christine Glaser and Karyn Moskowitz, then of GreenFire Consulting. The working group’s report, developed by Heather Cantino with input from many group participants, documents, in an extensive annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed research, the profoundly negative impacts of current Wayne management practices, especially logging, prescribed burns, leasing of oil and gas minerals, and OHV/ORV trails, as well as other forest-disturbing activities.

The italicized word supposedly, above, refers to the enormous exception to Forest governance by the 2006 Plan, which did not address high-pressure, horizontal drilling and fracturing, since fracking was not considered a potential activity when that Plan was developed. Nevertheless and in spite of over 100,000 local, regional and national voices raised in vigorous opposition over a five-year period, the USFS gave permission to the BLM to lease Wayne mineral rights for fracking, without ever conducting a NEPA-based analysis of impacts. The BLM has conducted lease auctions, and permits have been issued. BEN, ACFAN, and Heartwood have been part of a coalition led by Center for Biological Diversity to file legal challenges, many of which are pending. The working group’s report provides to the Wayne yet again the extensive documentation from peer-reviewed research of the profound harms caused by fracking to climate, air, water, and human, animal, and forest health.

A unique contribution of this working group’s report is the strong stand against prescribed burning in eastern deciduous forests and specifically at the scale of hundreds of acres per burn conducted by federal and state forest agencies with no pre- and/or post-assessment of impacts on non-target species, forest health, biodiversity, soil, air, or water. Included in the working group’s document in addition to relevant peer-reviewed literature are Buckeye Environmental Network’s updated board policy statement on prescribed burning, (praised by noted Ohio conservation biologist Guy Denny) and an observational report by three working group members (Paul Knoop, Loraine McCosker, and Heather Cantino) to two Wayne “pre-burn” sites as well as to a site burned three times, most recently nine years ago. Aided by longtime naturalist Paul Knoop’s seasoned eyes, the team noted the post-burn site’s “compacted thin soil, limited native understory plants, damaged trees, and significantly less leaf litter,.. in essence a highly impacted fragmented forest with significant invasives present.” (Ecological-Forest-Management working group report, p. 95)

The Wayne has never taken the hard look required by federal law to help save our planet rather than contribute to its destruction! Ohioans will continue to demand that the Wayne serve the economic best interests of our region required by USFS’s founding mandate and practice ecological forest management to protect biodiversity, climate, regional air and water, and human and animal health.

The plan revision process is outlined at fs.usda.gov/main/wayne/landmanagement/planning. Public comments can be submitted at any time to wayneplanrevision@fs.fed.us .

Urls of documents linked above: acfan.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Comments-to-Wayne-NF-from-Working-Group-on-Ecological-Forest-Management-Climate-Protection-and-Sustainable-Economies-submitted-1-28-19.pdf

heartwood.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Wayne_Economic_Analysis-.pdf

acfan.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Updated-BEN-fire-policy-statement-as-adopted-1-9-19.pdf

 

“Ho, ho, ho, We say NO!” Waynettes bringing coal and anti-fracking songs to Wayne Headquarters 2015

Talking Points and more: K&H #4 Injection Well Permit Application. Please comment!

Monroe County Ohio, June 2014 frack waste tanks explode

Talking points for K&H #4 permit application

E-mail comments by Saturday 12-22 to oilandgas@dnr.state.oh.us, including REF: injection well permit application # aPATT033024

or by mail to ODNR Div. of Oil and Gas, 2045 Morse Road, Blg F-2, Columbus, Ohio 43229-6693, (614) 265-6922.

The citizens of Athens County have been protesting applications for Class II injection wells in our county since 2011! ODNR has received hundreds of letters from citizens, public officials, and water districts expressing substantive and relevant concerns about these wells being permitted in our county against our wishes and in spite of extensive scientific evidence of their ability to poison water and air and cause earthquakes, explosions and fires.

This 4th permit for K&H Partners would allow another potential 840,000 gallons of radioactive toxic waste a day to be dumped into a hole in the ground in the community of Torch Ohio, doubling, with this one well, what the three current wells accept altogether. That would potentially mean 306 million gallons of additional waste, for a total of over 600 million gallons being injected annually at this one facility.

Ohio does no water testing to determine if the high pressures necessary to inject this much waste are leading to migration of waste into surface or drinking water supplies. Ohio does not require mapping of aquifers to determine or limit where wells are sited.

Millions of gallons of radioactive, chemical-laden hydrocarbon-based waste are stored onsite, including 2.5 million gallons in one large dome tank, all less and a ¼ mile from the village of Torch. Ohio regulations do not require vapor recovery to capture the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that must be vented regularly in order to prevent explosions. Ohio does not limit or test for air emissions. Ohio does not require lightning arrestors except in urban areas. Explosions and extensive fires have been caused at such facilities in Ohio and elsewhere. Local emergency responders are not trained to deal with such fires.

We have no confidence that ODNR’s oversight program will provide protection to the health and safety of our communities. Ohio law and regulations provide:

  • No air monitoring of volatile organic compounds venting from waste storage tanks
  • No limits on air emissions venting from the waste storage tanks
  • No vapor recovery requirements for waste storage tanks, one of which holds 2.5 million gallons
  • No lightning arrestors on the 2.5 million gallon tank or any others at the site
  • No ground water monitoring for potential contamination of private wells
  • No mapping of aquifers in the region or consideration of aquifer locations for siting of wells
  • No testing for possible migration of contamination through fissures created by high-pressure injection
  • No testing for radioactive material in the waste
  • No seismic monitoring for potential earthquake activity
  • No local control or honoring of community officials’ objections or concerns
  • No monetary, job, or other economic benefits to local communities

Ohio has NEVER granted a public hearing to Athens County officials and citizens to record our grave and substantive concerns, highly relevant to health and safety and good conservation practices, as Ohio injection well law requires. As citizens, we ask for a public hearing in Athens County. The outgoing administration has violated the public trust over and over by denying people our due process to a public hearing. (ORC 1501:9-3H(2)(c))

See acfan.org’s injection well page for research links and more.

Athens County Fracking Action Network acfan.org, acfanohio@gmail.com

New Athens County injection well application. Public meeting Tues. Dec. 18, 6 pm

New Athens County Injection Well Permit Application: K&H #4: 

Commissioners to host public meeting to hear concerns TUESDAY DEC. 18 at 6 pm at Athens Community Center

Public encouraged to submit comments to ODNR directly — by Dec. 22 — if you can’t attend the meeting.

K&H Partners of Parkersburg WV has applied for another injection well permit in Torch, the 4th well at this facility. The comment period ends December 22. The application to inject 20,000 barrels of waste a day will double the 20,000 barrels total allowed daily for the three current wells. Since ODNR has never granted a public hearing on injection well permits in the county, the Athens County Commissioners have responded to requests and will host a public meeting on Tuesday, December 18, at 6 pm in the Athens Community Center to hear and gather citizens’ concerns and submit them to ODNR. The public can also send in comments directly to ODNR: e-mail to oilandgas@dnr.state.oh.us. Ref: Permit #: aPATT033024.

Members of Torch Can Do, ACFAN, and Buckeye Environmental Network (BEN) have met with the Athens County Commissioners repeatedly with concerns about these wells. Roxanne Groff, ACFAN member and BEN board chair, stated, “40,000 barrels means 1,680,000 million gallons a day of toxic radioactive pollution are being pumped down a hole in the ground.” She added, “People think that the word ‘well’ means the waste is contained. It’s not. It’s simply pushed under high pressure down a pipe, which is open at the bottom and who knows where else. The state does no monitoring of groundwater anywhere near the site.”

Torch Can Do has monitored truck traffic and recently counted as many as 60 trucks at a time parked in the Torch U.S. Rt. 50 public rest area, waiting their turn to unload waste at the tank facility. Several years ago, the group counted over 100 trucks in one day pulling into the holding facility, which is visible above the rest area. Felicia Mettler, of Torch Can Do and a BEN board member, commented, “It’s likely that there are 200-300 trucks a day coming in now, given the increase in idling trucks we’ve seen at the rest stop recently. There is still no monitoring of air quality or water testing required by Ohio law. What are these trucks doing to our community, not to mention the 2,759,800 million gallons of waste stored in those tanks that vent directly into our village? Besides the air contamination we already experience and threat of water contamination, I am very worried about an explosion at the site. Can you imagine the toxic fire that almost three million gallons of hydrocarbons would produce?”

Members of the public who can’t provide testimony at the meeting can submit comments directly by Dec. 22 to Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, 2045 Morse Road, Building F-2, Columbus, Ohio 43229-6693, (614) 265-6922, or email oilandgas@dnr.state.oh.us. Ref: Permit #: aPATT033024.

VISIT ACFAN’S INJECTION WELL PAGE for RESEARCH and NEWS.