By Karl Henkel
Julia Fuhrman Davis says she moved to Beaver Township 17 years ago from Canfield because it “was beautiful.”
But Davis believes her quiet neighborhood won’t be beautiful after the addition of a soon-to-be active brine-injection well.
“I didn’t move to Beaver Township to be in an industrial zone,” she told a crowd of about 100 Tuesday night at the old South Range High School.
The town-hall-style meeting, sponsored by Occupy Youngstown, brought together residents who oppose natural-gas and oil exploration in Ohio and hope to push for more emphasis on alternative-energy sources.
“This is our America,” said Patti Gorcheff, a Beaver Township resident. “Not the gas industry’s America.”
Residents gathered as a result of a soon-to-be injection well on state Route 7, owned by D&L Energy Inc.
Injection wells accept brine, a salty, chemical byproduct of natural gas and oil drilling.
Those wells, in Ohio, can be a few thousand to 9,300 feet deep.
D&L also owns several other wells and well sites throughout the Mahoning Valley, including the Youngstown well, which may have induced 11 earthquakes last year.
“The biggest concern in our area is that people aren’t educated in earthquake safety,” said Howard Markert, a Green Party candidate for Mahoning County commissioner. “Our houses aren’t built to withstand earthquakes. Our infrastructure isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.”
The Beaver well is not one of the five that was banned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Dec. 31. Those wells are in Girard, Campbell, Coitsville and two in Hubbard.
The ODNR has instituted a new policy on injection well depth that it says will alleviate earthquake concerns.
The injection well discussion was not limited to earthquakes.
Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting pointed to loopholes in federal law that they believe are an example of under-regulation.
Injection wells for example, are exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The exemption, implemented in 2005, is most commonly referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole.”
The talk of under-regulation led to fracking, the process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
Davis said she considers horizontal fracking, the process used to extract natural resources from the Marcellus and Utica shales, to be “like a dinosaur dragging itself across the country, sucking out fossil fuels, gasping for breath in its last attempt to maintain an archaic way of thinking.”
Fracking wells, under the federal Clean Air Act, are somewhat protected against air contamination claims.
Contamination claims must be on a well-to-well basis; a claim cannot source multiple wells as a single source of contamination.
Two pending pieces of legislation, the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act,” which would require the disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, and the “BREATHE Act,” which would remove some drilling exemptions, haven’t gained traction.
Closer to home, many voiced concerns about a lack of local control.
The ODNR can permit exploration and injection wells without local consent, as outlined in House Bill 278 and Senate Bill 165.
Davis said she may seek assistance from the nonprofit Community & Environmental Defense Services group, which aids homeowners and residents on potential neighborhood threats.
“We don’t live where they frack,” said the Rev. Jim Deming. “They frack where we live.”