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On Feb. 7, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) delivered his State of the State address from the 1,100-seat Steubenville High School auditorium rather than keeping with tradition and delivering the speech from the Statehouse in the centrally located capital city of Columbus.
For many, it's not difficult to see why. His positions on issues such as education, energy, environment, voting rights and workers' rights have been out of touch with the will of the people.
Located on the West Virginia border—near Kasich's hometown of Mckees Rocks, Pa.—Steubenville is out of the way for most Ohioans. Many citizens see this break from 200 years of tradition as a ploy to evade what would surely be a swarm of protestors.
If the plan was to keep protestors away, it didn't work.
Steubenville is also located near the natural gas-rich shale-drilling fields of eastern Ohio. Fresh on the heels of 11 deep-injection well-related earthquakes in the nearby city of Youngstown, Ohio, in addition to an increasing number of high-profile fracking incidents across the country—most recently involving the contamination of drinking water in Pavilion, Wyo.—fracking is the hottest issue in the state, with Gov. Kasich leading the charge to fully tap into the state's vast resources with little to no safety regulations in place. Currently, Ohio is home to more than 180 injection wells and receives nearly 50 percent of its fracking wastewater from New York, Pennsylvania and other Northeastern states.
Despite overwhelming public support, current Ohio legislation—SB 213 and HB 345—that would impose a moratorium on fracking permits and waste-disposal injection wells until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concludes a study to determine whether there's a link between drill sites and contaminated drinking water has been stonewalled in committee.
Adding to environmental and health concerns is the recently reported news that Ohio's oil and gas companies pay taxes to the state based on an honor system, meaning "well owners are required to report the amount of natural gas they 'sever' from the earth and file severance-tax returns each quarter," according to the Youngstown Vindicator's website, Vindy.com.
“You’ve got to be kidding me," said State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown). "This is a real failure of government. It is all too apparent now that the Department of Taxation and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources give the oil and gas industry a free pass to write a tax check to the state based on what they think is fair."
The report, carried out by a coalition of Northeast Ohio journalism programs, cited at least a $3 million discrepancy for 2010 in what was collected by the Ohio Department of Taxation and what was reported by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
"As unbelievable as it may seem, the industry tells the state how much gas they’ve extracted and pays taxes based on that figure," said Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland. "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."
To read Josh Fox's statement from today's rally, click here.
Rally speakers included:
- State Representative Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown)
- Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood)
- Stefanie Penn Spear, Executive Director, EcoWatch
- Susie Beiersdorfer, Geology Instructor, Youngstown State University, Frackfree Mahoning Valley
The rally also addressed the following:
- Kasich isn’t standing up for us and someone needs to be fighting for our future and our communities.
- While our citizens continue to struggle, Kasich is giving away the state to his biggest campaign contributors.
- Education. Environment. Voting Rights. Workers’ Rights. Attack after attack—Kasich and his allies are working for their corporate special interests, continuing to ignore the will of the people.
- After the beating Kasich took on Issue 2, he knows the people are against him. So instead of having the State of the State at the Statehouse in Columbus, Kasich is running away to a small venue in hopes that no one will make the effort to travel there.
- Citizens from across Ohio are going to come together and protest Kasich’s fire-sale of Ohio to his corporate friends. We will show him that the 99 percent won’t sit back while he rewards his 1 percent campaign contributors.
- The days of rewarding campaign contributors with Ohio’s tax dollars are over.
- The corporate takeover of Ohio stops here.
To see pictures of today's rally, visit EcoWatch's Facebook page.
To learn more about hydraulic fracturing issues nationally and internationally, visit EcoWatch's Fracking page.
Until March 17, 2011—St. Patrick's Day—Youngstown, Ohio had never officially recorded an earthquake. New Year's Eve 2011 had Youngstown residents trembling for the 11th time in under nine months. Making matters worse, the Dec. 31 quake registered a magnitude 4.0 on the Richter scale—the most powerful quake yet, felt across hundreds of square miles, ranging from Canada to West Virginia.
At the epicenter of the sudden jolt in seismic activity is the Ohio Works Drive fluid injection well, operated by D&L Energy Group affiliate Northstar Disposal Services LLC. The site—just outside of downtown Youngstown—is a 9,200 foot-deep disposal for brine wastewater—a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking. Ohio is home to 176 other injection deep well sites.
On the heels of the New Year's Eve earthquake, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), an outspoken drilling proponent, issued a moratorium on wastewater wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown site until the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) can more clearly review the situation and its impacts on public health and safety.
Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) called on Gov. Kasich in a letter on Jan. 5 to institute an indefinite moratorium on the injection wells until Ohioans can be guaranteed that there's no detrimental correlation between the natural environment and the wells.
To read Rep. Hagan's letter to Gov Kasich, click here.
Rep. Hagan's chief concern is the ability for ODNR and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to objectively assess the situation, as these organizations are, according to Hagan, "steeped in communications regarding the positive aspects of oil and gas exploration in the state, while ignoring some potentially very serious implications of components such as waste disposal."
Despite compelling evidence linking the recent Youngstown earthquakes to D&L's wastewater injection wells—in addition to a growing number of high-profile water contamination incidents in Dimock, Pa. and more recently in Pavillion, Wy.—regulations to keep citizens safe are lagging.
According to the Youngstown Vindicator, D&L has "a history of at least 120 violations at 32 injection and extraction wells in Ohio and Pennsylvania during the past decade."
To date, the company faces no fines for wrongdoing, although regulators have documented a "lack of correction action."
Tell Gov. Kasich and the ODNR you want stronger safeguards for fracking by clicking here.
For more information, click here.
A Don’t Frack Ohio rally is being held on Jan. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. Speakers will include Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown), and representatives from communities impacted by oil and gas drilling and injection well sites. For more information on the fracking protest, click here.