Hearing Digs Deep into Coal-mine Issue: Supporters and Opponents Speak during EPA Hearing

By: Kayla Beard

Dozens of concerned area residents gathered at Burr Oak State Park Lodge Thursday evening to comment on a draft permit that would allow a coal-mining company to dump chemical waste from its proposed strip and surface mine in Trimble Township into nearby Johnson Run.

Most of the comments opposed the mining plan, though some supported it.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held the public hearing to receive input on a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application submitted by Oxford Mining Company of Coshocton.

If approved, the permit will allow the nearly 300-acre mine to discharge wastewater into Johnson Run from five sediment ponds, which collect runoff from the strip mine area, spoil piles, topsoil piles, haul road and non-paved parking area, according to a state EPA news release issued Feb. 1.

According to the news release, the proposed project could result in a change in current water quality conditions but “does not authorize any violation of Ohio’s water-quality standards that protect human health and the environment.” EPA permit reviewer Scott Foster gave a brief presentation explaining some of the permit details at the start of Thursday’s meeting, after which he and two other “technical permit reviewers” answered questions from the audience.

Permit reviewer Eric Nygaard explained that “water-quality issues” are defined by state EPA standards based on current pH levels and chemical concentrations in the waterways. “We look at what the (waste) discharge would need to be to meet water-quality standards in those streams,” Nygaard said. “We then compare that to the data that we’ve got… and say OK, are those water quality numbers going to be exceeded?”.

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A Toxic Tour Through Underground Ohio:

 By: Justin Nobel

A booming injection well industry is pumping toxic waste deep into the earth in Ohio’s rural towns.

We begin with a glass of wine on the wraparound porch of Michele Garman, who lives with her husband Tom and teenage son Dominic in the rural Ohio community of Vienna. Just 200 feet from the family’s house is a narrow shaft that the oil and gas industry uses to pump waste riddled with toxic chemicals deep into the earth, one of Ohio’s 217 active Class II injection wells. “I still enjoy sitting out on my porch,” says Garman, “but it was a lot more enjoyable before the scenery changed.”

The small white and maroon trucks that deliver the waste often come at night, she says. They contain what regulatory agencies innocently refer to as produced water, or brine, a slurry generated during fracking operations that can contain more than 1,100 chemicals and which is carcinogenic, flammable, and radioactive. Garman says she and her son occasionally smell, “a sweet odor in the air, almost like antifreeze.” One night last winter an alarm went off. “There was a red light and a real low siren,” she says, “and no one to call to see what was going on.”

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Groups file protest over upcoming leasing in the Wayne National Forest

BEN Momentum Training

BEN board members and friends were trained in Momentum community organizing. Momentum was developed by grassroots organizers, for the grassroots. Everyone from the most experienced community organizer to the newest activist can learn something from this training. Now, BEN is hoping to add this curriculum for change to our toolbox for frontline communities. 

During this training, BEN determined that Momentum gave us a good framework and theoretical grounding, but that we would need to think of creative ways to bring this kind of grassroots organizing to rural communities. We also developed a handful of next steps and things to think about:

  • more interaction between BEN affiliate organizations
  • we would like to bring students to the injection well summits
  • how can we bring momentum to other communities?
  • can this apply to fundraising (develop a "toolkit" so that donors know what they are investing in)
  • how can we honor the history of the movement in our work?
  • toolkit development!

We also determined that the next board meeting will be via phone conference. The slideshow that was used during the training can be found here.

For more information on what Momentum is, visit their website. Check out their webinars, find trainings near you, and be sure to look into their sister organization, the Ayni Institute.

Two of Momentum's founders wrote a book about popular nonviolent resistance, This is an Uprising, which can be bought online to benefit the Center for the Working Poor. 

 

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