Mar 24, 2013

LWV gives one side of fracking at forum on March 18

Anne Vehre
BY RYAN BERRY 
MANAGING EDITOR 
GREENVILLE – The Darke County League of Women Voters held a forum on fracking to educate local residents on the practice of removing gas and oil from shale rock. Anne Vehre, organizer, acknowledged the forum was one-sided. In her opening statement, Vehre pointed to the message the gas and oil companies have presented, “We have heard over and over the one side. I have found a different story.”

Joe Logan, director of agricultural programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, and Julie Weatherington-Rice, PhD., senior scientist at Bennett and Williams Environmental Consultants, presented a program on the hazards of fracking. Logan addressed the issue of water contamination, dangerous emissions and dwindling farm land. Weatherington-Rice addressed the issues of radioactive materials found in the waste that ends up in a landfill or a Class II Injection Well and the amount of fracking waste generated from other states that end up in Ohio.

Logan was concerned that aquifers will suffer contamination due to the 29 chemicals and 650 different hydraulic fracturing products. “Most (chemicals) are not disclosed,” he said. He is also concerned with the “toxic” emissions produced by fracking. He pointed to a study that showed a 10-percent decrease in field corn, 20-percent decrease in winter wheat and 30-percent decrease in soy beans due the emissions. He also argued that it takes six acres to install a fracking platform, plus the number of roads built to allow trucks to access the platforms breaks up the farmland.

He also expressed concern that the gas and oil companies received an exemption from the 2005 Federal Appropriations Bill from the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, and Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act.

Weatherington-Rice concentrated on the material being pulled from the fracking wells and where it is being placed. According to the scientist, the product has acceptable levels of radium, thorium, uranium and radon that are above the TENORM (Technologically-Enhanced, Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials). The solids from these materials are being placed in landfills across the state and liquid waste is being pumped into Class II Injection Wells (designated for oil and gas production). She is concerned that because some of the radioactive materials in the landfills are water soluble that rain will cause the radioactivity spread into local tributaries and streams. She also questioned why Ohio has nearly 150 Class II Injection Wells and Pennsylvania only has a handful.

She believes 52-percent of the waste is coming from other states and is being placed and/or injected into the ground in Ohio. She believes western Ohio may soon be home to more injection wells because drilling costs are cheaper due to the thickness of the rock.

According to Logan and Weatherington-Rice, accidental spills or leaking are huge hazards associated with fracking. However, when questioned by State Representative Jim Buchy on how many documented cases there were for ground water contamination due to fracking, both agreed there was only one. Buchy later commented the same question was asked recently of the director of the EPA and the answer was none. He pointed out fracking has been taking place for 60 years.

Representative Buchy noted he heard the concerns voiced at the meeting, but many of them have not been backed by evidence. He plans to take the information he heard and will meet with several people to get answers to his questions.

Shawn Bennett, field director for Energy in Depth, attended the meeting and handed out brochures from the American Exploration & Production Council (AXPC) disputing many of the claims given by the presenters, but was not asked to speak at the forum.

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