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. 

 

"Recommended by Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander, Bill McKibben, Frances Fox Piven, Erica Chenoweth and many more... "

No Fracking on Public/State Lands in Ohio... For Now

Environmental justice wins are often hard-fought and difficult to measure. The most recent win in Ohio is no exception.

Since 2011, when Governor John Kasich was granted the power to open up fracking on public lands, the anti-fracking movement in our state has been playing the waiting game. Kasich was *supposed* to appoint an Oil and Gas Commission by 2012, a commission that would have the power to grant permits for fracking in state parks, forests, universities, and other publicly-owned lands. However, Kasich (for some reason unknown to the general public) never actually appointed anyone. By no means is Kasich an active ally to communities on the frontline of environmental exploitation, but he has acknowledged climate change in ways that the republican house and senate have failed to do (like vetoing the freeze on renewable energies this past year), and some have hoped that deep in his heart of hearts Kasich knows that fracking is only exacerbating an already insurmountable problem. For a time, we were happy with his (default?) environmentalism that directly resulted in a stall to drilling on public lands for nearly five years.

However, pro-fracking groups in the state have grown weary of waiting. Folks like Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Obenhoff have a vested interest in opening public lands to fracking. In fact, Rosenberger has made $283,500 in contributions from the fossil fuel industry, according to publicly-available campaign records collected by Max Carone and Thomas Caltabellotta, both students at Wright State. So it isn't surprising that he was one of the primary backers of an amendment to the State Budget for FY 2017-2018 (HB 49) that gave the Speaker and the Vice President the power to appoint the commission themselves. A commission that could push through permits as soon as Fall 2017. Sketchy? We think so, too. Which is why the Buckeye Environmental Network joined up with Keep Wayne Wild, Athens County Fracking Action Network, Torch CAN DO, the Ohio Student Association, Ohio Student Climate Resistance and many others to demand that HC 2241 be removed.

And, well….. we won! The amendment has been struck from HB 49, which means that Kasich still has the power to stall for another year. You might read this post and think to yourself, “wait, does this even count as a win?” To be honest, sometimes I wonder the same thing. When it comes to environmental justice, it’s hard to celebrate wins when we’ve already lost so much to the fossil fuel industry. Technically, although the process has been stalled, fracking is still legal on state public lands in Ohio. This win doesn’t even apply to federal lands, which means that fracking will move forward on national forests like the Wayne National Forest, and Ohio is still facing at least three new pipelines in the next year (despite huge pipeline spills like the Rover spill last month that poured 2 million barrels of drilling fluid into endangered wetlands). Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of acres that were lost to coal mining over the past century, and the communities that were destroyed in the process.

Regardless, we are of the opinion that wins like this one are important. From Torch to Athens to Marietta to Youngstown, we need to recognize that our state is in the hands of a dangerous fossil fuel industry. Be it through campaign contributions that bind politicians to unsustainable policies, or through utility options that force Ohioans to be complicit in a system that exploits our environment and our communities. This win isn’t an excuse to stop fighting for a better future, but a reminder that we need to be confronting injustice in every way possible: through our legislature, and through our own personal energy decisions. Resistance is not enough. It’s time for an environmental revolution with Ohio in the lead! 

As of right now, the House can still argue to reinstate HC 2241 to the budget. Here’s where you come in! Contact your Rep. or Senator and ask them to keep HC 2241 out of the budget bill and to keep fracking out of Ohio’s public lands. Tell them you want to see a government that invests in and supports green energy and green jobs, and demand that they call or write you back and explain their positions on this issue.

Thank you to all who made this possible. In solidarity,

Caitlyn McDaniel

Board Member, Buckeye Environmental Network