Oil Industry Spokesman Misrepresents
Local Citizen Efforts To Protect Environment
To the Editor:
The comments by Shawn Bennett in a recent interview published in The Athens NEWS on Dec. 8 seriously misrepresent the problems and dangers that the fracking industry presents to the residents of Athens and neighboring counties.
According to Mr. Bennett, Issue 7, which recently passed in the city of Athens by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin, represented an attempt by an out-of-state organization to interfere with local economic development. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Issue 7 was an attempt by local residents to prevent out-of-state industries from polluting our local environment.
By Mr. Bennett's own admission, there are no current plans for deep-shale fracking development in Athens County, because oil and gas extraction is not sufficiently profitable here. What the oil and gas industry is planning to do, however, is to turn Athens and neighboring counties into dumping grounds for fracking waste generated in other states. There are no economic benefits resulting from environmental contamination. The reason that our communities are being targeted for disposal of out-of-state waste is that our state laws allow the oil and gas industry to avoid federal EPA oversight and ignore regulations that they must comply with to dispose of fracking waste in other states. Thus, neighboring states where EPA regulations still apply find it cheaper and easier to send their fracking waste here.
Oil and gas companies are protected by current state law from having to reveal the contents of fracking waste, but there is clear evidence that these fluids are highly toxic, containing known carcinogens and contaminated by radioactivity. For example, wastewater from Pennsylvania shale has been found to be "3,609 times more radioactive than a federal safety limit for drinking water. It was 300 times higher than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges to water (Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 3, 2012)."
The reality faced by local residents is that their water, their land, their property values, their health, the health of their families, and even their livelihood if they are involved in any way with local food production, outdoor recreation, or tourism, are all seriously threatened by the prospect of these counties being targeted as a dumping ground for fracking waste. State officials have no intention of protecting us from this abuse because of their dependence on the oil and gas industry for campaign funds (see recent study conducted by the New York Times.)
So, the only way we can protect our water, our environment, and our health is to exercise our rights as a community. That is what Issue 7 in the city of Athens was all about, and that is why a broader, tri-county (Athens, Meigs, Vinton) bill of rights campaign is currently getting started - to enable the residents of these counties to assert their local community rights and protect themselves from industrial abuse and exploitation.