Athens Eight charges reduced, plea deal accepted

Charges Reduced for The Athens 8 Arrested at the K&H Injection Well Rally

The eight farmers and local business leaders charged with criminal trespass for blocking trucks carrying frack waste to the K&H Partners’ Athens County injection well site in February took a plea deal this morning in Athens Municipal Court.  The eight pled to a lowered charge of disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor, and received a $150 fine, $100 of which was suspended.  Those arrested include Kip Rondy, owner of Green Edge Farms; Michelle Ajamian, owner of Shagbark Seed and Mill; Christine Hughes, owner of the Village Bakery, Smiles Welch, a local pastor, Sean Pavlac, Timothy Fultz, Caprice Huffman and Liz Florentino.

Kip Rondy read the following statement at the hearing:

“Your Honor, we, the persons now before the Court, are persons of reason who have done all that we could within the statute of the law to prevent the destruction of our natural, economic and social environment.  The Commissioners of Athens County, as well as the City Council of Athens Ohio, have unanimously enacted a resolution opposing the development of an additional injection well at the K&H site.  K&H at present is daily injecting 2,100 barrels of toxic, radioactive waste at its location in Troy Township.  Much of that said waste is being generated by out-of-state fracking operations.  The new proposed injection well at the K&H facility will allow for the disposal of an additional 4,000 barrels of waste, daily.  Despite appeals form the citizenry of the Athens community, the aforementioned actions of both the elected county and city officials, documented earthquakes, and other significant environmental damage at other injection well sites within the boundaries of the state of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has proven to be unresponsive in addressing these community concerns.  ODNR has failed in its duty as protectorate of the citizenry and the resources delegated to them by statute.  The ODNR has failed to hold public hearings concerning the proposed injection well, ignored and denied lawful information requests, and continues to act in a capricious and arbitrary manner concerning the citizens’ stated objections.  It is then, when we the Citizenry of Athens county, facing the real and permanent threat to our aquifer, our air, our earth – when the will of lawfully elected officials is ignored – that the acts of civil disobedience before the court today are not merely justified, but become obligatory.  Citizens so informed must, at some level, engage in civil disobedience on behalf of themselves, future generations, and society at large.”

Retired Athens County Municipal Judge Douglas Bennett said, “I’m resisting the urge to quote Harry Shearer, what the frack.”  Shearer hosts a weekly syndicated public radio show. Bennett also commented “Speaking as a taxpayer, I was reading in the Wall Street Journal that Ohio has the lowest tax rates on oil and gas in the nation.”  Bennett also jumped in when Attorney Grace thanked Prosecutor Eliason for working with K&H to arrange the plea deal, saying, “K&H is not a party to the matter here, which is between the defendants and the state of Ohio.”  He dismissed the protesters by thanking them.

The K&H2 permit is under appeal by Athens County Fracking Action Network, following unanimous votes last fall by the Athens City Council and Athens County Commissioners to oppose permitting of the well, the second at the Troy Township site owned by K&H Partners of West Virginia. Rally organizers want K&H and ODNR to revoke the permit and ban injection wells in Ohio and in Athens County specifically.

A support rally led by the Activist Choir followed the sentencing near the steps of the Athens County courthouse. Organizers included members of Appalachia Resist and Athens County Fracking Action Network. Further information, including an in-depth timeline of the legal battle over the K&H 2 well, can be found at acfan.org/injection-wells and appalachiaresist.wordpress.com.

Earlier statements from some of the Athens Eight:

Athens News coverage 3-24-14