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Josh Fox

[Editor's note: Thank you Josh for providing this statement for the Ohio anti-fracking rally at Gov. John Kasich's State of the State on Feb. 7 in Steubenville, Ohio]

Gasland was intended to be both a chronicle of the way in which oil and gas companies have used vast sums of money to shield fracking from virtually all federal, state, and local regulations and a cautionary tale about the toll the process takes on people and the environment.

Fortunately, the message of the film is getting through. Recent surveys show that 4 out of 5 Americans are concerned about fracking’s effect on our drinking water and seven out of ten Ohioans believe the process should be stopped until we know more about its effect on the environment and its relation to a series of earthquakes that have rocked the Northeastern part of the state.

The bottom line: fracking is not safe. It has never been proven safe and it will never be made safe.  The industry admits that well casing problems occur in 50 percent of wells over the life of the well. That means that 50 percent of gas wells can be expected to leak chemicals, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carcinogens and neurotoxins directly into groundwater. The industry has never been able to solve this problem although they have been trying for decades and they have admitted that there is no solution to the problem.  Safe fracking is simply an impossibility. If the state allows further drilling, it is trading water for gas. It is trading the short-term windfall profits of huge gas companies for our public health and the permanent poisoning of our ground water.

Unfortunately, Governor John Kasich and the Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly, like so many members of Congress and officials in other states, have decided to listen to the siren song of the industry rather than the concerns of their constituents and the growing body of scientific research that is shining a brighter and brighter spotlight on the dangers of fracking. It’s no accident that the governor is delivering his State of the State address in the hotbed of fracking in Ohio.

He’ll undoubtedly praise the industry and the jobs it promises to create in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that those jobs come at a steep cost to the environment and public health.

He won’t mention that as he is speaking in Steubenville on Tuesday or the five bills designed to address environmental and health concerns related to fracking that are languishing in the Ohio House and Senate in Columbus because the industry does not want them to be heard.

He won’t mention that oil and gas producers now pay state taxes on the “honor system.” As unbelievable as it may seem, the industry tells the state how much gas they’ve extracted and pays taxes based on that figure. There’s no oversight or monitoring.  In fact, the state lacks the authority to check meters at the wellhead and compare those readings against the figures turned in by producers. The producers pay what they want to pay—no questions asked.

That’s an especially troubling thought when you consider that this industry is totally devoid of anything that even approaches honor—and that their tax liability could climb to as much as $40 million per year if they do all the fracking they want to do—and then accurately self-report the volume of gas they extract. Given their history, I think we can count on the former and forget about the latter.

The aversion to regulation and the truth about fracking in Ohio is nothing new. This is an industry built on secret deals, influence peddling and media manipulation. It is grounded on the exemptions from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Superfund Act and, crucially to the Safe Drinking Water Act, from which fracking was exempted by Congress in 2005. It is fueled by the near universal desperation for jobs and economic development that exists in the regions where most fracking occurs.

Thankfully, however, the public is slowly but surely digging itself out from underneath the mounds of industry propaganda that has enabled them to punch tens of thousands of holes in the Earth without adequate oversight. The earthquakes that shook Northeast Ohio did more than scare residents, it raised very real questions about the process and its long term effects that people want answered, NOW.

I applaud the public officials and the environmental, public health, and community groups, and the thousands of concerned  residents who are demanding answers from the industry and the elected officials who do their bidding. I urge you to continue the fight, to keep asking the hard questions—even if it means being arrested for seeking the truth as I was last week for merely attempting to record a public hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Send this message to the industry and the politicians they control: we won’t be silenced. We can’t be bought. We will fight to keep our families and our communities safe.

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Ohio Fracktion

Seven protesters arrested for blockading trucks containing highly toxic waste water produced from hydraulic fracturing on Nov. 30 were on trial in Youngstown. The action was carried out in response to the D&L Energy owned injection well in Youngstown, which is injecting waste water from Pennsylvania and Ohio deep into the ground.

In a courtroom packed with local supporters and members of Occupy Youngstown the seven were charged with M1 Disorderly Conduct, which carries a maximum 30-day term of confinement and a $250 fine per arrestee. Defendants entered a plea of “no contest” which accepts the facts but does not admit guilt. After being declared guilty of the reduced charge of M4 Disorderly Conduct protesters were fined $50 and court fees on recommendation of judge and prosecutor.

The Youngstown injection well has caused eight nearby earthquakes since March of 2011—seven of these with an epicenter located at the well. Arrested activist Ben Shapiro said, “Well casings and cement break and degrade in the best of circumstances leaking highly toxic chemicals, it’s far more dangerous at the epicenter of these earthquakes. How in the world can V&M Star and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources think this can be safe anywhere for our drinking water?”

Jaime Frederick of Youngstown Ohio has been sick ever since a fracked well on a neighboring property was drilled and known fracking fluid contaminants entered her well. “I was being poisoned and didn’t know it. My gall bladder had completely stopped working. I kept getting sicker and sicker.”

People across the country are pointing to the direct action that took place in Youngstown, Ohio, as an example of how citizens are willing to take a stand against the fracking industry. An example of this is Sandra Steingraber, an environmental biologist that mentioned the Ohio activists in her testimony against injection wells for fracking waste at a New York State Public hearing.

Fracking threatens citizens by exposing them to millions of gallons of water polluted with known toxins and carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, heavy metals and surfactants. These chemicals cause extreme health effects including cancer and brain damage from endocrine disruption. A recent well leak in Broadview Heights sickened neighbors while local emergency responders could do nothing for 24 hours. In Chester Township 85 gallons of crude oil, gas and toxic waste water shot 20 feet in the air.

According to defendant Sean O’Toole, a 61-year old retired veteran and local resident, “hydrofracking companies causing irreparable damage to the land and people should be prosecuted and not those seeking to protect safe drinking water and community health. What’s going on is radical, not me.”

For more information, click here. To contribute to the regional legal defense fund for activists, click here.

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