The Youngstown area experienced an earthquake on New Year’s Eve. It was the 11th earthquake of 2011 in the area, which is really quite surprising since there were no earthquakes here in 2010, or 2009, or any year ever that anyone can remember. According to Bloomberg no earthquakes had been recorded near Youngstown “until D&L Energy Inc. began injecting wastewater from drilling into a 9,300-foot disposal well in December 2010.”
The D&L well, like many of Ohio’s 181 disposal wells, is pumped full of excess fracking liquid, a mixture of water and chemicals, the byproduct of hydrolic fracturing. Under current federal law, the contents of the fracking chemicals used in the process are considered proprietary and don’t have to be made public. Kind of scary, right?
Even more worrisome? The water may also contain toxic chemicals and substances such as cadmium, arsenic, plutonium and uranium that can be released from naturally occurring deposits in the earth during the fracking process. Many of the fracking chemicals and the naturally occurring chemicals are known to cause cancer in humans.
But have no fear, people, John Kasich and his pal Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, are telling us we have nothing to worry about. According to Stewart:
“About 7 million barrels of wastewater from drilling have been injected annually into Ohio wells since 1985 without incident because the practice is closely regulated by federal laws and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.”
First, Stewart is hardly an unbiased observer. His job is to promote oil and gas development in Ohio. And his group, along with other oil and gas industry interests, have helped feed $213,519 in campaign contributions to John Kasich – the most of any politician in Ohio- according to a report issued by Common Cause.
Second, Stewart’s statement about the practice being “closely regulated” borders on an outright lie.
Federal law, specifically Bush/Cheney’s 2005 energy policy, includes language (nicknamed the Haliburton Loophole) that explicitly strips the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate fracking in Ohio or any other state.
And while it is true the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is responsible for regulating these wells, it does seem worth noting that a year ago Kasich appointed David Mustine, a former Oil and Gas executive, to head ODNR. During the press conference announcing Mustine’s appointment, Kasich told reporters that he was hoping to “exploit the wonders of our state” – and he meant it, soon opening up Ohio’s state parks to drilling.
Also worth noting: Estimates for the amount of waste water being pumped into Ohio’s disposal wells show it likely increased to over 9 million barrels in 2011, with half of it coming from other states like Pennsylvania.
Regardless of your opinion on fracking, it’s hard not to be concerned over the complete lack of federal regulation, the increasing amount of hazardous chemicals being dumped into the ground under Ohio, the explosive expansion of fracking in Ohio – including in our parks, the massive campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry to Ohio’s politicians, oh – and the EARTHQUAKES.