City officials and citizens of Mansfield Ohio continue to move forward in protecting communities against the inundation of hydraulic fracturing waste disposal. In a unanimous vote, Mansfield City Council passed resolution 13-343 which strongly supports the passage of Ohio House Bill 148. HB 148 proposes prohibiting the disposal of brine by deep well injection and land application in the state of Ohio. Ohio is targeted as a toxic dumping ground by the oil and gas industry and Ohio residents are seeing an increasing amount of waste flowing into their communities. As local municipalities fight to prevent the influx of toxic waste, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources continues to permit Class II injection wells and welcome millions of gallons of hazardous waste from inside and outside the state. In 2012 almost six hundred million gallons of toxic fracking waste was dumped on Ohio communities via injection and almost sixty percent of that came from out of state.
In 2011, two high volume, high pressure wells were permitted by ODNR inside the Mansfield City limits. Residents and city officials were told by Texas oilman, Steven Mobley, who had leased the land, filed the necessary application with ODNR, that nothing could be done to prevent the construction of the wells and Preferred Fluids LLC (one of Mr. Mobley’s numerous limited liability corporations) from bringing millions of gallons of toxic fluid into the city via existing rail road lines and trucks. Working together, citizens and the Law Director’s office drafted an Environmental Bill of Rights charter amendment which was placed on the 2012 November ballot. Even against a very expensive (the industry spent approximately $200,000 to defeat the measure) and fraudulent push-back from a coalition of oil and gas industry allies, the residents of Mansfield voted in the local control initiative by a 66% margin.
Based on the strength of community support, two more injection well ordinances were passed by council: A Chemical Trespass Ordinance which includes a maximum migration clause and an ordinance placing a Moratorium on injection well construction with a component of a one year waiting period to assess environmental impacts before construction could begin. Because of these efforts, Mr. Mobley (as Preferred Fluids LLC) withdrew the permits for the site and no injection well construction was begun. After a feeble attempt to sue the City of Mansfield in Northern District Court, attorneys for Preferred Fluid withdrew the lawsuit in the summer of 2012, even before the local laws were passed.
In 2013 a statewide coalition of citizens, grassroots groups, state and national organizations came together to craft and create legislation to prohibit fracking waste in the state of Ohio. Ohio House Bill 148 was introduced in the spring of 2013 by Representative Denise Dreihaus, District 31 and Representative Robert Hagan, District 58. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate in the Fall of 2013 by Senator Michael J. Skindell, District 23. The legislation would effectively ban Class II injection wells, road brine spreading and the introduction of treated fracking waste into water treatment facilities and waterways. The coalition is working across the state of Ohio to create momentum for hearings on the state bills and to raise public awareness on the threat posed by toxic fracking flow back waste pushed on communities and also to empower them to take action by establishing local legislation.
Members of Frack Free Ohio, based in north central Ohio, launched another campaign in September, 2013 to ban fracking waste within the county. Members met with county commissioners, held a public speaking event at the Central Park gazebo and approached Mansfield City Council to enact a resolution in support of the statewide legislation. Last night the first goal was achieved by the unanimous passage of Resolution 13-343.
Before the vote was cast, Council-at-Large Ellen Haring stated, “I would like to thank you Bill, and your supporters for constantly keeping that in front of us so that we do retain that local control. It’s so important to keep fighting for that and this is just another way of expressing our concern, locally, for what is being done in the State of Ohio.”
Many of us recognize that local control and the ability of local communities to self-govern is what is really at stake here and if we lose the right to say no to ultrahazardous and unconventional technologies our future legacy will be one of a toxic wasteland with no accountability from the fossil fuel industry in their greed driven quest for planetary destruction.
Law Director John Spon concurred by stating “I would like to add, as you indicated, this resolution is not saying necessarily excluding (anyone). It’s talking about joint co-operation between communities, cities and the states, and all parties concerned, and that’s what has been adopted in California, in Texas and other major states. So we are a co-enforcer.”
Residents and members of Frack Free Ohio looked over the resolution language and identified particular areas of concern.
Cindy Soliday, a Mansfield resident who was very active in the Bill of Rights effort pointed to the first portion of the resolution: “Hosting a Class II injection well provides no known benefit to the community, no guarantees for compensation and no sustainable financial, business or community betterment opportunities for the city. Class II wells do not foster job growth.”
Richland County resident Annette McCormick who has spent decades protecting the Mohican valley area, including Malabar Farm State Park against industry compromise, noted this: “Liquid waste from fracking and shale fuel extraction processes is know to contain certain levels contaminants, including unknown quantities of undisclosed chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing fluid as well as sources underground. Benzene, xylene, naphthalene, formaldehyde, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and radioactive materials, including Radium 226 (at levels 300 times permitted industrial effluent discharge and 3600 times drinking water standards), are among the known contaminates: and that the companies engaging in this drilling technique have not fully disclosed chemicals used, their concentrations and volume.”
Eric Boardman, who had first approached council with his concerns in November of 2011 and has continued to be an active ally against fracking, found the exemptions of particular importance: “(The) Oil and Gas industry waste is legally exempt from federal hazardous waste regulations and from important portions of the Safe Water Drinking Act and Clean Water Act. These fluids are legally designated as “non-hazardous” by virtue of these exemptions, but if tested, they would be deemed hazardous and would be required to be disposed of in Class I hazardous waste injection wells. In addition to the chemicals used in the well drilling and fracturing processes, the United States Environmental Agency has noted that radioactive materials have been found in “fairly high concentrations” in liquid waste associated with the oil/gas operations.”
Another Mansfield resident, Elaine Bauer, who has worked diligently in many anti-fracking campaigns across the state of Ohio pointed to the lack of oversight by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: “Class II injection wells are poorly regulated, are not monitored for contaminant migration, and according to ODNR regulation, can even be sited in wellhead protection areas; and even the fossil fuel industry extraction industry’s own engineers and scientists acknowledge that all wells eventually fail, many of them within a few years; and Class I injection wells in Ohio, which are built to stricter standards, have leaked high volumes of toxic waste substances into groundwater; and state and federal records reveal that during the years 2007 to 2010 one out of every six injection wells inspected failed mechanical integrity testing. ODNR has a long history of ignoring repeated, flagrant violations; and many existing Class II wells are old production wells not even built to the current inadequate state standards for injection.”
Jan Kennedy, Richland County resident, felt that the increased risk of induced seismicity was an important piece to the resolution as well: “ Earthquakes have resulted from injection into wells Class II injection wells and are increasing in frequency and severity in Ohio as well as Oklahoma and Texas, where recent earthquakes were at a magnitude of 4.1, enough to cause damage, and the largest in Oklahoma’s history, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in 2011 has been linked to injection wells.”
The local resolution concludes with: “ Due to the unknown risk factors of the injection waste, the City Council of Mansfield is in opposition to the continued use of existing Class II wells as well as issuance of any new permits issued for Class II wells.”
Theresa and Kevin Clark from the Mohican Valley area had this to say, “ When thoughtful people consider where they are going to live, have recreation with their families and spend quality time, they are not looking for an area that is going to allow toxic poisonous water to be injected into the ground. What legacy is this leaving if we allow this in the ground? One only needs to look at the history of Love Canal to see what happens when outside interests move in with the promise of economic boom and then leave after the area is destroyed. Is this what the people of Richland, Crawford, Ashland and every Ohio county deserves?”
It’s important to take action in your own community and the continuing efforts of the City of Mansfield is an inspiration in the restoration of democracy and the right to local decision making. A statewide coalition network is continuing to grow in support of local communities and passage of the state legislation. The tide is turning against the uncaring greed of the fossil fuel industry. Sustainable living and employment opportunities continue to grow and are the most desirable additions to our Ohio landscape. We can not afford to let poorly regulated, unconventional extraction, generating massive amounts of toxic waste, be the guiding force that will not only destroy the most valuable natural resources we have left: our air, water and soil, but also prohibit the opportunity for clean and abundant living. Get involved. Engage your local elected community leaders. Call your Senator and Representative and ask them where they stand on toxic waste disposal in Ohio. Act now.