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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:

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.

EcoWatch

On Jan. 10, more than 250 Ohioans assembled on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse to voice their opposition to hydraulic fracturing—better known as fracking—and deep injection wastewater disposal wells.

Leading the charge was State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown), who last week called on Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) in a letter to implement an indefinite moratorium on D&L Energy's deep injection wells in Youngstown, Ohio, which has been rocked 11 times in the past nine months by earthquakes. Seismic surveys have corroborated that the two most recent earthquakes—on Christmas Eve and a 4.0 magnitude quake on New Year's Eve—had epicenters near D&L's deep injection wells.

Rep. Hagan called on Gov. Kasich to institute a moratorium on all deep injection wells within a five mile radius of the Youngstown site until Ohioans can be guaranteed that no correlation exists between the disposal wells and danger to the natural environment or human health.

“The people of Ohio and the people of the Mahoning Valley need answers from our government officials," said Rep. Hagan. "We need to know why over half of the toxic frack water we are blasting into Ohio lands is coming from Pennsylvania. We need to know why there is such a rush to dump this waste in Ohio. And we need to know why it took ten earthquakes in ten months for anyone in the Kasich administration to wake up and respond to calls for a moratorium on these wells. We never had an earthquake in Youngstown until John Kasich was elected governor.”

"What has occurred in the Mahoning Valley is deeply troubling," said State Rep. Tracy Heard (D-26). "It's evidently clear we must take a step back and examine fracking, not only the process but its potential impacts to our environment both long-term and short-term. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to find a solution that will protect the citizens of Ohio and our environment."

“Creating jobs at the expense of human health and the environment is not sustainable," said Stefanie Penn Spear, executive director of EcoWatch. "Ohio needs to bring back the incentives for renewable energy projects that support Ohio’s energy bill SB 221. Investment in renewable energy will create green jobs, revitalize our strong manufacturing base and provide long-term solutions to our energy needs without contaminating our drinking water, polluting our air, displacing communities and making people sick.”

Other speakers at today's event included:

  • State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood)
  • State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati)
  • State Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland)
  • State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-47)
  • Ohio State Senator Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood)
  • Ohio State Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus)

Today's speakers called on Gov. Kasich to protect the environment and public health by passing SB 213/HB 345, which would impose a moratorium on fracking permits and wastewater disposal injection wells. Currently, Ohio is home to 177 deep injection well sites.

The protest was organized by NO FRACK OHIO, a collaboration of more than 50 grassroots and conservation groups calling for further safeguards on horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

To view more photos of today's rally on Facebook, click here.

Visit our fracking page to keep up-to-date on fracking issues worldwide.

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