Concerns, protests over Ohio fracking


COLUMBUS

An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

Protest: About a half-dozen members of Radioactive Waste Alert and Food & Water Watch protested outside a downtown Columbus hotel where Gov. John Kasich offered a pre-election speech. The environmental advocates are seeking a ban on horizontal hydraulic fracturing-related activities in the state.

“We’re out here today to demand that Gov. Kasich give us answers on how he’s going to protect us from the toxic radioactive waste from fracking and how we can move forward with an honest debate about whether or not we should be fracking in the first place,” said Alison Auciello, an organizer with Food & Water Watch.

Severance Tax: During that same speech, Kasich again smacked out-of-state oil and gas companies, industry groups and Republican lawmakers for refusing to back his proposed increase to severance taxes, saying he would continue to fight to implement higher rates on fuel produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

He said he may push for a higher rate than he initially proposed, using the proceeds to help local communities affected by the fracking industry and to cut overall tax rates.

“This is a total and complete ripoff of the people of this state,” Kasich said of the current severance tax rate. “It’s outrageous.”

Air Concerns: The Athens County Fracking Action Network, Appalachia Resist and other groups in a half-dozen states sampled air near oil and gas facilities, including fracking sites, and found “some chemical levels were hundreds of times higher than what some federal agencies have determined to be safe.”

The results were released in a report titled “Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution at Oil and Gas Development Sites.”

“This experience shows how important it is for communities to be directly involved in monitoring the air they breathe,” Denny Larson, representing the group Global Community Monitor, said in a released statement. “They know their communities better than anyone, and combination of scientific data and personal experiences can help government agencies that are supposed to be protecting our health, to do their job.”

More Disclosure: The Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund called for increased disclosure of chemicals used in horizontal hydraulic fracturing, after a well fire in Monroe County. Emergency responders dealing with the latter, the group said, did not know the types or locations of chemicals at the site.

“Rather than proactively arming first responders with information, Ohio has systematically ensured fracking chemical secrecy to protect the industry from liability,” said Ohio Citizen Action’s Melissa English.

Still No Severance Tax Agreement: During a post-election conference, Republican lawmakers remained noncommittal on a proposed increase on taxes paid on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The GOP-controlled House and Senate have given no indications that they plan to move related legislation before the end of the year.

Expo in Cleveland: The Ohio Oil and Gas Association announced its fourth annual Oilfield Expo and Technical Conference, scheduled for Dec. 3-4 in Cleveland. The event will include training sessions, technical workshops, panel discussions and a new “Oilfield Celebration Reception.” Details are online at ooga.org/expo.

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