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Protests in Warren bring out both sides of fracking debate



Published: Tue, July 30, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Drilling opponents, supporters sound off at dueling rallies in downtown Warren

photo

More than 200 people attended a “Don’t Frack Ohio” rally Monday in Courthouse Square in Warren. Some participants decided to show their opposition to the oil-and-gas industry operations in Ohio by dressing up in costumes, including Jim Jewel of Kent, who dressed as a tree and stood on stilts.

By Jamison Cocklin

jcocklin@vindy.com

Warren

The gulf in public opinion was in plain view Monday as opponents and supporters of the state’s oil and gas industry had simultaneous demonstrations in the city’s downtown.

Don’t Frack Ohio, a coalition of local, state and national groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, attracted about 200 participants to what organizers believe is one of Northeast Ohio’s largest anti-fracking rallies to date.

At the same time, the Mahoning Valley Coalition for job growth, welcomed business, labor and political leaders to show support for oil and gas during a counterprotest.

Last year, Don’t Frack Ohio descended on Columbus to voice dissatisfaction for an industry they say is destroying Ohio’s natural beauty to reap handsome profits that don’t benefit many residents. Sam Rubin, a spokesman for the group, said coalition members believe lawmakers in Columbus have turned a blind eye to their concerns, leading them to Warren to make a plea for action among those directly impacted by the industry.

The day’s event featured music, informational booths and lively costumes — including some dressed in hazmat suits and one protester cloaked head-to-toe in a tree costume. Event organizers and speakers claimed the oil and gas industry is out only for “big money.”

“Not only is this fight essential for communities in Ohio — and a reasonably sensible one — but it’s also absolutely essential to the future of this planet,” said Bill McKibben an environmental activist and co-founder of the participating organization 350.org. “It’s a fight in which you have many allies.”

McKibben, on a nationwide tour to speak against the fossil fuel industry, spoke of taking “citizenry back” and continuing to build grass roots opposition in pockets across the country. He added that climate change is evidence of the fossil fuel industries’ disregard for the health and well-being of the American public.

As McKibben spoke, though, air horns could be heard from the streets surrounding the stage, as members of several local construction unions worked to drown out speakers on the stage and rally support for an industry they believe is lifting Ohio up by creating jobs and economic opportunities.

“The shale industry is subsidizing the future of the Mahoning Valley,” said Eric Planey, vice president of international business attraction for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber.

“Oil and gas exploration and production are fueling economic growth and momentum in this region and making the Mahoning Valley a ‘Rust-Belt-to-Tech-Belt’ success story.”

Planey, and Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building & Construction Trades Council, rattled off a series of investments from the oil and gas industry that they say is proof of its commitment to the region, including multimillion-dollar projects at Exterran, Vallourec Starr, TMK/IPSCO in Brookfield, pipelines and processing facilities.

Planey and others were joined by Warren Mayor Doug Franklin who spoke in support of the oil and gas industry at a counter-protest that drew about 80 people.

“We’d have more people here, but a lot of my guys are working on oil and gas related projects,” Crane said.

Just across the street, those opposed to the industry said something needs to be done to stop the influx of fracking waste — which contains naturally occurring radioactive metals — that is disposed in the state each day.

Teresa Mills, field director for the Ohio office of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, rolled out a sign that showed 7.8 billion barrels (42 gallons per barrel) of fracking waste has been injected in Ohio since the oil and gas industry began drilling here decades ago.

She said those figures came from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. In February, ODNR director James Zehringer testified before state lawmakers, saying that more than 202 million barrels of fracking waste have been injected at underground wells since 1983 when the state earned primacy in regulating and overseeing those wells.

Chester Paskin, who drove to the rally from Cleveland where he lives, said regardless of any opposing viewpoints or science involved in the ongoing debate, he’s concerned about the mounting power of oil and gas companies and the industry’s efforts to lobby lawmakers in Washington, D.C.


Comments

1Dwright(1 comment)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

Can't say I know everything about the debate, but I generally find when one side needs to blast air horns to keep the other side from speaking, the one getting blasted is probably closer to the truth.

Checked things out on the square yesterday and since my wife was making a delivery I was holding our 5 month old and just checking things out. I walk over towards that side to see what they're saying and for a bit they are just arguing pretty civilly, saying "get a good job and you can buy water," but they start blasting these air-horns and berating some lady clown (literally), and claiming to the cops that the clown is hitting them with a sign. She might have, I don't know, but these are 220 lb pipefitter guys, and it's a lady clown who's getting airhorns stuck in her face literally 5 inches away, so please.

So I'm like "interesting, but no place for a baby," and walk around to the other side of the square, and don't you know these guys start circling around the park blasting their horns. So they're walking around towards the edge I've retreated to with the baby and I wave and point to the baby, like, hey guys, maybe it's not so important to drown out these conservationist guys speeches that you have to blast a nearly-sleeping baby with your air horn of job-freedom-energy-money. Nope. Apparently it's just that important, maybe even more important, because they start like doubling their rate of air-horning. So in a little break in the air-horning I'm trying to walk over and say come on, whatever with the politics, that's just rude and mean, and the response is why am I walking around there with a baby when their air-horns need to be heard, with the clear implication that I've just brought the baby as a tool to silence them (?!) and that's why I'm walking towards them right now, and I'm the one who's rude.

Maybe just pipefitters on vacation with a couple beers in them or whatever, but I can't say that lot made me think their side cares about much of anything beyond themselves.

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2kurtw(876 comments)posted 1 year, 3 months ago

I wasn't there but I read the Vindy story and I remember thinking, reading it, "Air horns! What is that all about?" There's no need and it's uncalled for. Regardless of how you feel about the issue (and I don't think the Anti-frackers have a leg- or "stilt" after the one guy from Kent- to stand on) there's no excuse for a display of rudeness and intolerance. Hear them out and decide the issue on its merits- or lack thereof.

All the "air horn" idiots did is generate public sympathy for the opposing point of view- which, is sad, because, on it's merits, the anti-fracker, tree-hugging contingent hasn't a leg- or stilt- to stand on.

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3oh13voter(1205 comments)posted 1 year, 2 months ago

...and yet you two find the misinformation being spread by the anti crowd is acceptable.
Unbelievable.

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