ACFAN signed onto a public records request this week to uncover the extent to which the Kasich administration worked to discredit, marginalize, or otherwise thwart citizen efforts to protect Ohio communities from the fracking industry. Frackgate exposed Kasich administration collusion with industry in permitting and promoting fracking and frack waste dumping in Ohio.
The Kasich administration’s Frackgate began with news of a 2012 internal memo in which Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) outlined a plan to promote fracking in state parks and undermine groups of concerned citizens with the help of the fracking industry. Although the Kasich government denied that the governor’s office was involved, correspondence about the memo and an associated meeting soon revealed the lie.
“The specific naming of organizations and legislators as opposition groups raises questions about how seriously the ODNR and the administration are taking their duties to protect Ohio residents over the interests of the oil and gas industry.”
The communications plan identified state legislators and environmental organizations as “eco-left,” giving the impression that the ODNR is a PR firm for the oil and gas industry instead of a regulatory agency.
“Unfortunately, it seems that it’s fallen upon the people of Ohio to ensure transparency and accountability of our state government and agencies,” said Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter said. “Ohioans must get to the bottom of the plans regarding the wholesale of our public lands, and coercive propaganda plans by state officials to do so.”
Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Forest Council has been reviewing inspection reports on fracking and fracking waste disposal wells for the last several years. She said, “Clearly, serious problems at wells are falling through the cracks. After the release of the memo, my question is now whether or not it’s intentional.”
The identification of oil and gas companies including Halliburton, and lobby groups such as the Ohio Oil and Gas Association as allies in the document, suggests a level of collaboration and coordination that is inconsistent with the role of ODNR to “ensure a balance between the wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit for all.”
“When the line between the regulators and the regulated becomes blurred, unnecessarily risking the health of Ohioans, we have a duty to correct the problem. Unfortunately, we don’t feel we can rely on the state to take this possible collusion seriously, so we’re working together to get the information out to the public,” said Vanessa Pesec, president of Network to Educate and Organize for Gas Accountability and Protection.
According to Food & Water Watch, questions remain as to how those groups were identified, whether the ODNR public relations team tracks the activities of these groups and what other public relations tactics are being used to sell Ohio residents on the benefits of fracking.
“Athens County Fracking Action Network has known ever since examining ODNR’s unsound permitting guidelines that ODNR and the Kasich government have no interest in meeting their ethical and legal obligations to protect our drinking water,” said Athens resident and Athens County Fracking Action Network member Zella Nisley. ”We believe that this public records request will further expose the incestuous relationship between the Kasich government and its master, the oil and gas industry.”
On March 2nd, over 1,000 people came out to tell President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject the northern leg of Keystone XL. The mostly young people marched to the White House where many zip-tied themselves to the fence while others lay on the sidewalk. 398 were arrested!
These are the people that climate change will most directly affect, and they wanted President Obama to hear their concerns. We hope he was listening, as the weekend’s events, dubbed XL Dissent, proved to be quite powerful. After all, the students and activists brought their urgent message right to the front door of the White House.
Photo essay at popularresistance.org.
by John Howell, coordinator, Democracy Over Corporations, Athens, 3-3-14:
Will ODNR approve a permit application for a coal mining operation in Carroll County, Ohio, to be done by the same corporate complex responsible for the recent massive water pollution in West Virginia?
Rosebud Mining, the company applying for the permit is owned by J. Clifford Forrest of Kittanning, Pa., who also owns Chemstream Holdings, Inc., which, in turn owns Freedom Industries, whose facilities caused the toxic leak that rendered the water of 300,000 West Virginians unusable. Rosebud itself, in other mining operations, has had 26 violations over the past two years, and Freedom Industries, already $3.6 million in debt from failure to pay federal taxes and Bureau of Workman’s Compensation bills, has now declared bankruptcy to protect itself from 25 lawsuits that have been filed against it from the West Virginia spill. (More details can be found in a letter submitted to ODNR by Richard Sahli, attorney for Carroll Concerned Citizens…).
That record does not suggest Rosebud’s mining operations can be trusted to protect the water supply of Carroll County, or that the company would have the resources to remediate a pollution problem it might cause. ODNR Director James Zehringer’s boss, Governor Kasich, might be able to exert some influence here.
The Ohio Supreme Court is hearing a case in which the people of Munroe Falls, Ohio, are claiming the right to enforce their own local zoning laws, which regulate drilling in residential neighborhoods, to protect themselves from fracking by Beck Energy Co. in people’s yards (The Dispatch, Feb 27). Athens city voters will have chance to approve their own local fracking ban on the November ballot.
By handing to ODNR sole authority for permitting mining and drilling, our legislators, both at the state and federal level, have forsaken the people in favor of their corporate benefactors. J. Clifford Forrest maxed out his contributions to Rep. Bill Johnson, who represents Carroll County in Washington, and also contributed to John Boehner and to Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia (Bill Moyers.com, Jan. 24, 2014).
Without reversing the 2010 Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and imposing restrictions on campaign spending in elections, legislatures and other government agencies will continue to support corporate bottom lines over life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the people they are elected to serve.
Letter also published by the Athens Messenger, 3-3/4-14
Further information on Rosebud/Freedom: Owner of Freedom Industries, J. Clifford Forrest, revealed as owner of Rosebud Mining Company, which is seeking to deep mine and strip mine in Carroll County, OH. Canton Repository: Richard C. Salhi, attorney for Carroll Concerned Citizens, sent a letter last month to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, asking it to place a hold on new coal mining permit requests by Rosebud, because its owner, J. Clifford Forrest, also owns Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the Jan. 9 spill near Charleston, W.Va….”We strongly believe that Mr. Forrest’s role in the Freedom Industries fiasco necessitates that your department subject this application to greatly enhanced scrutiny if Carroll County is to be protected from the type of sordid events being revealed in Charleston,” Salhi wrote in the letter, addressed to ODNR Director James Zehringer. More…
Los Angeles Becomes Largest City to Approve Fracking Moratorium
Fri, 2014-02-28 13:14, CAROL LINNITT, DeSmogBlog
Fracking for oil and gas will not be happening in Los Angeles any time soon after City Council members unanimously voted to ban the practice within city limits today. The vote passes the motion to the City Attorney’s office where it will be rewritten as a zoning ordinance before returning to City Council for a final vote.
L.A. is now the largest city in the U.S. to refuse the dangerous extraction process. Local bans have become an effective protective measure against fracking, and are in place in numerous jurisdictions worldwide including Vermont, Hawaii, areas of New York State, Quebec, and France among many others.
The Los Angeles ordinance prevents the use of fracking until effective governmental oversight and regulation is in place at the local, state and federal levels.
“I think we can all agree unregulated fracking is crazy,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, co-author of the motion.
California is in the midst of a devastating drought, raising concerns over access to fresh water supplies. Fracking uses approximately 5 million gallons of water per frack job.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, there are still 9 Californian counties where fracking is in use, including Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura.
The Center also notes
“fracking routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene, naphthalene and trimethylbenzene. It can also expose people to harm from lead, arsenic and radioactivity that are brought back to the surface with fracking flowback fluid. About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, according to scientists with the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.”
Flowback fluid or produced water, the toxic wastewater resulting from fracking, is so highly contaminated it is almost always permanently removed from the hydrological cycle and disposed of in deep injection wells. There is increasing evidence that these chemicals are migrating into sources of drinking water.
Canton Repository: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has revoked a drilling permit and mandatory pooling order granted to Everflow Eastern Partners in December because the driller gave false information about its lease of city property.
Local minister joins western MD students and resident for peaceful sit-in demanding a full federal Environmental Impact Statement for $3.8 billion project that could fast-track fracking
All participants expressed deep concern that Dominion’s Cove Point plan would incite enormous pressure to open western Maryland to industrial fracking wells and new gas infrastructure, harming public health and transforming the rural landscape that sustains local livelihoods.
“An export facility at Cove Point would simply be another addition to a fossil fuel model that has drastically failed us,” said Desiree Bullard, a Cumberland native and a graduate student at Frostburg University. “The only way Dominion can possibly justify this plan is by hiding the truth. We can’t match Dominion’s money or influence, which is why we are peacefully sitting in today, appealing to our leaders for an Environmental Impact Statement that assesses the full impacts of Cove Point.”
“A thorough Environmental Impact Statement would undoubtedly prove that fracking, drilling and extracting is not a sustainable path for our communities,”said Gabriel Adam Echeverri of Frostburg. “I stand in solidarity with the residents of Cove Point, with the residents of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, and Ohio, and with my neighbors in opposition to any corporation that would take all for profit and leave nothing for progeny.”
Dominion’s Cove Point export plan has sparked growing opposition across Maryland in recent months, drawing a record crowd of environmental protesters to Baltimore last week as hearings began at the Maryland Public Service Commission. The state must sign off on Dominion’s permit to build a 130-megawatt gas-fired power plant to run on-site liquefaction operations, and the Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal this Saturday in Calvert County.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is also weighing Dominion’s plan but, to date, has rejected calls for a full Environmental Impact Statement made by dozens of environmental, health and faith leaders, Maryland citizens, and Maryland’s Attorney General. Advocates contend that a less thorough and less participatory “Environmental Assessment” would fail to account for the domino effect of rising gas prices, expanded fracking, new pipelines and compressor stations and, ultimately, significant new carbon pollution that the Cove Point project could trigger region-wide.
The Weather Channel(!), Inside Climate News, and Center for Public Integrity: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie
from weather.com: In the 20,000-square mile area of South Texas known as the Eagle Ford, oil and gas wells are sprouting at an unprecedented rate. But local residents fear for their health – not from the water, but from the air they breathe.
Following an eight-month investigation with InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Intergity, The Weather Channel reveals the potential dangers that come with releasing chemicals into the air during all phases of oil and gas development. We also present just how little the government of Texas knows – or wants to know – about it… Read full multimedia report here.
Josh Fox and Calvin Tillman respond to Exxon CEO’s objection to water wells in his backyard; former Mobil exec chides Tillerson
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson joins a lawsuit against a water tower and potential fracking in his neighborhood based on property values, health and nuisance. Great coverage by Josh Fox in an interview on MSNBC (2-24) and a follow-up interview with Calvin Tillman on MSNBC (2-25-14). In the interview, MSNBC co-host, Ari Melber, said, “This is not about the technical definition of fracking, it’s about whether we’re going to have an honest, reality-based, debate about the costs of our energy policies. And look, those costs can get pretty ugly: unsightly water towers, fracking wells, strange smells and the kind of air and noise pollution just about anyone would avoid if they could afford it.”
Open Letter to Rex Tillerson, Chairman, ExxonMobil
We have never met, but I worked for your company for six months immediately after the ExxonMobil merger, the implementation of which I coordinated from the Mobil side. That was after thirty years with Mobil Oil Corporation, where just prior to the merger I had been an Executive Vice President and Operating Officer for Exploration and Producing in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. I now live in upstate New York. For the past five years, I have been actively trying to keep your company and the rest of the industry from fracking here. I understand from several press articles that you have fracking issues of your own, with a fracking water tower and truck traffic possibly detracting from your view and the value of your home.
In response to the prospect of fracking ruining our communities, many New York towns have passed zoning laws that prohibit heavy industry, including any activities associated with drilling for oil and gas. Those laws, along with very little prospect for economic gas production in New York, mean that we probably will not have to look at fracking water towers, let alone live next to fracking well pads. I say probably, because your industry is still fighting those zoning laws in the courts.
Ironically, your reasoning at the Bartonville, Texas town council meetings is virtually identical to the reasoning that I and many other citizens used to convince our local town councils to pass laws that prohibit the very problem you have encountered, plus all of the other infrastructure and waste disposal issues associated with fracking.
No one should have to live near well pads, compression stations, incessant heavy truck traffic, or fracking water towers, nor should they have their water or air contaminated. You and I love the places where we live, but in the end, if they are ruined by fracking or frack water tanks, we can afford to pack up and go someplace else. However, many people can’t afford to move away when they can no longer drink the water or breathe the air because they are too close to one of your well pads or compressor stations.
My efforts to prevent fracking started over water — not the prospect of having to see a water tank from my home, but rather regulations that would allow gas wells near our sources of drinking water, in addition to well pads next to our homes, schools, hospitals and nursing homes. These issues are legitimate, but they are localized. I am now much more concerned with the greenhouse gas impacts of fossil fuels in general, and particularly the huge impact of methane emissions from natural gas production and transportation. These are global problems that local zoning cannot protect against. Only a major shift toward renewable energy sources can begin to mitigate their catastrophic climate impacts.
Before closing, I should explain why I have referred to ExxonMobil as “your company.” For several years after retiring I thought of ExxonMobil as “my company.” I thought that the company’s rigor and discipline in investing in sound projects was as good as it gets, and ExxonMobil was my largest single investment. I no longer own any shares of ExxonMobil or any other fossil fuel company. I would prefer to be an early investor in alternative energy for the 21st century rather than hanging on to dwindling prospects for investments in 19th and 20th century fossil fuels.
It is time that ExxonMobil started shifting away from oil and gas, and toward alternatives — both for environmental reasons and to protect the long-term viability of the company. Many large energy producers and consumers, including ExxonMobil, are building a carbon fee into their long-term planning assumptions. Actively supporting the phase-in of a carbon fee would be one way to move the company into the 21st century. Recognizing that methane emissions disqualify natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is another.
Good luck with that fracking water tank. I hope you don’t have to move, and also that you will help a lot of other people stay in the homes they love.
ACTION opportunity below. From Stark Summit Coalition:
Maybe it was his recent comments that he is no longer going to pursue drilling in state parks after a memo leaked by the Ohio Sierra Club revealed ODNR and the administration working on a PR campaign to sway public opinion on drilling in state parks. Energy, namely from shale drilling, is a topic that Governor Kasich has spent his entire term as governor championing, and yet, failed to utter a word about energy development in the State of Ohio as part of his speech. Coincidence? We think not.
The Stark Summit Coalition (SSC) recognizes that there are a multitude of sociopolitical issues across the State of Ohio and that it would be a great task for the Governor to take on every single one. However, energy has been a central focus of this administration and more generally the nation. Increased energy development across the nation have also led to a rise in environmental devastation from spills, explosions, leaks, and more. Water supplies have contaminated some areas while other parts of the country face drought and water rations. Should Ohio risk its delicate waterways?
Governor Kasich promised Ohioans jobs from shale development. Job reports reveal that coal, mining, logging, and oil & gas account for about 80 jobs per year in Ohio. Clearly, industry development is not doing much to support Ohio’s growing need for job creation.
Gov. Kasich made it a point to talk about bottom-up solutions and made claims that he wants to see more of that. Currently, Ohio law grants ODNR the sole and exclusive authority over oil and gas drilling. Communities are not allowed to decide for themselves when, where, of if a gas well is permitted. The same agency that was caught plotting a PR campaign with the industry it’s supposed to regulate is the only agency that has a say over oil and gas operations across Ohio. That doesn’t sound like bottom-up governance to us!
While Governor Kasich did not have much to say about the oil and gas industry in Ohio, SSC asserts that Governor Kasich needs to issue an immediate moratorium on fracking, pending a full environmental, health, legislative and economic assessment. Then, a minimum of one year is needed for the public to review these materials and decide accordingly. After all, the governor said that we need bottom up solutions: shouldn’t that include energy decision?
Please join [ACFAN], SSC and Food & Water Watch by emailing Governor Kasich demanding an immediate moratorium on fracking in the state of Ohio by clicking here.
More than a dozen Athens area businesses and the Village of Amesville filed Friends of the Court briefs in support of the appeal by Munroe Falls, Ohio, coming before the Ohio Supreme Court this week. Athens Electric, Donkey Coffee, Laurel Valley Creamery, Sticky Pete’s, Cherry Orchard, Shew’s Orchard, Herbal Sage, Sunpower, Inc., Green Edge Gardens, Fox Natural Builders, Hyacinth Bean Florists, Snowville Creamery, and Village Bakery were among businesses supporting the appeal for local control of oil and gas drilling. Local control was taken away from Ohioans by the Ohio legislature in 2004. Amesville is joined by Broadview Heights, Euclid, Mansfield, and North Royalton submitting another Amicus brief. A third amicus brief in support of the appellants was submitted on behalf of health professionals.
At issue in this case is the ability of localities to protect their community character by exercising their traditional land use powers over oil and gas development. These powers were removed in 2004 by the Ohio legislature at the request of the oil lobby and given to the Ohio Department of Resources via HB 278. Read more…
From the proceedings (2-26-14):
With regard to dismay that citizens can not object to or appeal permits, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer pointedly asked Beck Energy’s attorney, John Keller:
Pfeifer: “But in terms of courts. There is no access to courts period. Right?”
Keller: “Because the General Assembly decided in 2004 to give the state the sole and exclusive authority…”
Pfeifer: “To be God in this case, right?”
Pfeifer: “To be God. The Director of Natural Resources is God in this case.”
And yes, despite the fact that this company, Beck, has possibly the most violations in the state- the state testified ALONGSIDE the energy company lawyer to defend their right to drill!??!
Watch the video ohiochannel.