The following e-mail sparked a strong reaction from Stark County environmentalists who apparently think that the planned Stark County Local Emergency Planning Committee (SCLEPC) Symposium on Natural Resources and Deep Well Development (Symposium) for March 10, 2012 at Stark State College is an subtle effort of the oil and gas industry to use local officials and agencies of local government to brainwash Stark County elected officials to adopt the industry's take on the dangers, if any, of hazardous materials affecting the lives of Stark Countians should a fracking mishap occur.
Yes, the general oil and gas industry position seems to be that 95.5% of the solution used in fracking is non-hazardous and therefore the danger is for intents and purposes non-existent.
Clearly, the oil and gas industry is on the offensive in terms of spending millions upon millions of dollars in a full court press to convince federal, state and local government officials and the citizenry that fracking (including the use of hazardous chemicals) is perfectly safe and that opponents are well intended but misinformed, hysteric environmentalists.
Here is a link to www.energyindepth.org which is an organization devoted to being a clearinghouse for oil and gas industry arguments for side fracking issues.
In brief, fracking is an oil and gas exploration drilling method. (see more detailed definitions below).
Here is the e-mail provoking the response, to wit:
From: SCLEPC [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2012 12:14 PM
Save the date: March 10, 2012
From: Don McDonald – Program Director Stark County LEPC
A ½ day (morning) Symposium on Natural Resources and Deep Well Development will be conducted on Saturday, March 10 at Stark State College.
Scheduled presenters include representatives from The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Educational Program (OOGEEP), The Ohio Dept of Natural Resources (ODNR), The Ohio EPA, the Battelle
Corp. and others. Our intended audience will include elected officials from the county, cities, villages, and townships as well as the fire and police chiefs serving those communities.
This is not a 1st responder training event. The symposium is intended to provide unbiased information on the issue of hydraulic fracturing to all of these officials so that they may have accurate information to provide to their constituents and to use in policy making decisions that may be impacted by this issue.
More information will be provided in the very near future. Attendance to this symposium will be by invitation only. Please save this date as this symposium will be both timely and informative to you and your staff.
Thank you for your time,
Don McDonald, Contact person for the Symposium Planning Committee
McDonald tells the SCPR that it recently occurred to him and members of SCLEPC that the local furor over fracking (first brought to the attention of locals by Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis in December, 2010) and the onset of actual fracking drilling operations (three currently in process) in Stark commanded the attention of SCLEPC should there be a hazardous materials mishap connected with a fracking operation (drilling for natural gas and oil) in Stark County.
Accordingly, SCLEPC a local government education project was conceived and a symposium committee was formed to put the project together. The committee is comprised of:
- McDonald, (program director of SCLEPC)
- Representative Christina Hagan, (Republican - 50th House District)
- Fred Bertram, (Dean at Stark State College [SSC], teaches hazardous materials course)
- Ted Heck, (former Jackson fire chief, teaches at SSC)
- Art Murdoch, (chairman of SCLEPC)
- Lance Wilcox, (VP - Mr Rapid - emergency cleanup services)
- Bart Ray, (Special Investigator / On-scene Coordinator, Ohio EPA)
- Barb Stoll, (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Ohio)
- Jack Liberator, (Canton Township Fire Dept., - deputy chief)
Local opponents (e.g. Concerned Citizens of Stark County [CCSC] headed by Plain Township resident Christine Borello) to fracking want it stopped until there are studies which establish that the procedure is safe in that safeguards are in place to protect drinking water, the air we breathe, underground soil pollution and the like.
Here are samples of reactions from Giavasis and Borello.
- By invitation only for unbiased information on gas and oil to give our constituencies correct information and to also set appropriate policies.
- Where are those from the other side of this issue?
- If this unbiased why is it only by invitation, why is it not open to the public?
- Because they want to control the message and the discussion unimpeded.
- To the SCPR: "the ODNR is a cheerleader to the oil and gas industry."
- Wow. Talk about them trying to control people, officials, circumventing stakeholder citizens even further!...Similar was done in PA -
- Who is paying for this forum? Money given to the college by big oil?
- Excerpts of e-mail to McDonald:
- we [CCSC] definitely do not consider/ believe ODNR and Oil & Gas [OOGEEP] fit that description ... .
- ... we are certainly compelled to also question Battelle being the allegedly lone unbiased representative on this panel discussion ... (based on a Columbus Dispatch article of April 11, 2011 on a lawsuit filed against Battelle by Veterans seeking database information compiled by Battelle for the the U.S. Military on experiments conducted on soldiers in the 1950s through the 1970s)
- ... sincerely hope once again, you can go the distance and do more to balance this meeting with two different addtional panelists who possess different views about drilling than ODNR and Oil and Gas, yes, maybe even "biased" ones, so at least BOTH sides of the drilling discussion can be aired
Exactly, in more detail, what is fracking? (a term the industry does not like because it believes it connotes negativity)
Compare definitions of fracking from diametrically opposed sources.
First, from Chesapeake Energy, a major player in the drilling, to wit:
Hydraulic fracturing is a proven technological advancement which allows producers to safely recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations. This technology has the potential to not only dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign fuel imports, but also to significantly reduce our national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate our transition to a carbon-light environment. Simply put, deep shale gas and oil formation development is critical to America's energy needs and economic renewal.
Second, from the promoters of the anti-fracking film Gasland, to wit:
Horizontal hydrofracking is a means of tapping shale deposits containing natural gas that were previously inaccessible by conventional drilling. Vertical hydrofracking is used to extend the life of an existing well once its productivity starts to run out, sort of a last resort. Horizontal fracking differs in that it uses a mixture of 596 chemicals, many of them proprietary, and millions of gallons of water per frack. This water then becomes contaminated and must be cleaned and disposed of.
An SCPC compressed version of a Gasland graphic ("a picture speaks a thousand words") from its website shows the multiple environmental concerns that opponents of fracking have.
The SCPR's position on fracking is that it is here to stay for the foreseeable future, like it or not.
President Obama favors it, Ohio Governor John Kasich favors it, Congressman Tim Ryan (Youngstown) and many other representatives and senators favor it as well as Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II.
Jobs, pure and simple!
President Obama says it will produce 600,000 jobs over the next 10 years and Stark County local Mayor Healy believes that the fracking industry could produce 25,000 jobs for Canton.
But wait a minute. Does anyone believe that there won't be accidents and concomitant environmental consequences?
Yours truly certainly doesn't!
Accordingly, The Report believes the Ohio Legislature needs to amp up protection of local communities by requiring drillers such as Chesapeake to carry insurance sufficient to indemnify and hold harmless those Ohio/Stark County communities which are in the path of the accidents).
Moreover, Ohio needs to restore to on-the-scene local agencies of government such as SCLEPC the authority to deal with fracking operations both in a preventative mode and clean up mode when accidents occur especially when hazardous materials are the issue.
As far as the Symposium is concerned, it is a good idea. However, local elected officials should hear a balanced view of the pluses and minuses of fracking insofar as it concerns hazardous materials.
The SCPR does not necessarily share the views of Giavasis and Borello on the ODNR and Battelle but does agree that OOGEEP is a virtual arm of the oil and gas industry and therefore should be counterbalanced in the Symposium for local elected officials by someone like Giavasis.
In fact, The Report has suggested such to McDonald.
Giavasis is the perfect combination of being a Stark County elected official (some 20 years now) who has been active in creating policy at the township level of government and specifically in the area of fracking notwithstanding that the Ohio Legislature including area legislators Schuring, Oelslager, Slesnick and former state Reps. John Hagan and Todd Snitchler voted to strip local government nearly all local say in regulating the oil and gas industry impact on the villages, cities and townships of Stark County.
In fact, Director McDonald tells that SCPR that HB 284 stripped the SCLEPC of the authority to deal with oil and gas industry hazardous material accidents/incidents (including from fracking) affecting the Stark County public domain. Those matters are to be communicated as a matter of law to the state of Ohio and not to local authorities. Giavasis says that Stark County first responders are not permitted as a consequence of HB 284 (2004) and SB 165 (2010) to deal with hazardous materials incidents unless and until invited to do so by oil and gas industry officials and that sometimes this means first responders having to stand by and watch as hazardous materials wreck havoc with the environment.
McDonald, a former captain in the Jackson Township Fire Department having been there for some 24 years, has been the head of SCLEPC since 2005.
SCLEPC currently has 44 members who are recommended by the Stark County commissioners (Commissioner Pete Ferguson is the Stark commissioners' representative) to the Ohio State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) who does the actual appointing to local planning committees (87 of them in Ohio).
A major mission of SCLEPC and SERC is to implement federal law on the public's "Right-to-Know" about the presence of, preventive management of, and cleanup of hazardous chemicals in local communities.
Here is how the Ohio EPA articulates "Right-to-Know:"
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed by Congress in 1986. EPCRA was included as Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) and is sometimes referred to as SARA Title III. EPCRA provides for the collection and availability of information regarding the use, storage, production, and release of hazardous chemicals to the public and emergency responders in your communities. The law promotes a working relationship among government at all levels, business and community leaders, environmental and other public interest organizations, and individual citizens to improve hazard communications and emergency planning.
While the SCPR agrees with Director McDonald that, like it or not, fracking is here to stay given the overall political environment at national, state and local levels and that responsible (i.e. SCLEPC) local authorities need to educate and plan for accidents that result in the release of hazardous materials; SCLEP should not allow the oil and gas industry to hijack the education process and should expand its list for the March 10th meeting to include presenters who have a different perspective from the oil and gas industry itself and its sympathizers on the likelihood of a significant danger to the general public from hazardous materials used in fracking.
For her part, state Representative Christina Hagan (Republican - Marlboro) needs to introduce legislation empowering SCLEPC and LEPCs across Ohio to exercise jurisdiction over the hazardous materials aspect of fracking in local communities.
Here is a list of SCLEPC members.