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VIDEO: Fight Over Toxic Fracking Injection Wells Continues in Ohio

Energy

Athens County Fracking Action Network
Appalachia Resist!

On Nov. 28, more than 50 community members crowded inside the "open house" on fracking and toxic wastewater injection wells at the headquarters of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Athens, Ohio. They had requested a public hearing, but were denied. Watch this video to get a sense of the concerns these residents have as fracking injection wells are being permitted in their community.

Fight Over Toxic Fracking Injection Wells Continues in Ohio

Malvena Frost, who owns the property on which the Atha injection well is proposed in Rome Township in Athens County, Ohio, does not want an injection well on her land. She “fears her only source of drinking water, a private well ... will be contaminated," according to public comments submitted on her behalf to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) by her attorney, Mike Hollingsworth.

In her comments, Frost requested a public hearing on the Atha permit application. She was not the only one, approximately 100 Athens County residents submitted comments objecting to the Atha permit on grounds of health and safety and requesting a public hearing. This may be the largest number of comments ever submitted to the ODNR on an injection well permit application.

If members of the public raise relevant and valid concerns about health and safety, Ohio law requires that a public hearing be held. Frost and most of the 100 others received instead a form letter announcing that an "open house" would be held. With a week’s notice, the event is Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ODNR's 360 E. State St. headquarters in Athens. Phone conversations have elicited statements by ODNR officials that this open house is intended as a substitute for a public hearing.

“This is a clear abuse of discretion on the part of ODNR’s Oil and Gas Chief. Ohio Administrative Code 1501:9 mandates a public hearing if valid objections are received,” commented Roxanne Groff, a member of Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) and speaker at a recent public forum on the Atha permit. Groff stated, “It is indefensible for Chief Simmers to dismiss Malvena Frost’s clearly valid and extensive concerns with a form letter. It is also clearly an abuse of discretionary power to categorically dismiss the rest of the 100 comments, which we know contain well substantiated public health and safety concerns.”

On Nov. 19, a group of Athens County residents wearing hazmat style suits and respirators gathered in front of the Hazel Ginsburg fracking wastewater injection well site on Ladd Ridge Road in Alexander Twp. demanding that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) shut down the well do to safety concerns.

A public hearing is a legal forum in which citizens speak to the ODNR one at a time, allowing each statement to be heard by the entire group. More importantly, comments presented in a public hearing are entered into the legal record and can thus help hold ODNR accountable. Grace Hall, one of the 100 citizens who submitted comments on the Atha permit application, explained, “A public hearing allows us to hear what fellow citizens' concerns are and allows us to hear citizens' challenges to ODNR's rhetoric. A hearing provides an opportunity for citizens to broaden their understanding of the issue and brings a level of accountability to officials. An open house provides none of these things, because members of the public mill simply around the room, talking to various ODNR representatives in a casual one-on-one manner.” 

Athens County Fracking Action Network and Appalachia Resist! object to ODNR's outright dismissal of public comments and denial of a public hearing as a clear breach of public trust. Madeline ffitch, of Appalachia Resist! added, "This 'open house' is simply a way for ODNR to avoid having to face tough questions in public."

One concern cited in letters to the ODNR is the content of the waste likely to be injected into the Atha well, as in all Class II wells. While ODNR claims that the Atha well will accept only local, conventional oil and gas waste, there is no legal restriction on waste accepted. Hundreds of millions of gallons of highly radioactive fracking waste have been injected in Ohio injection wells in the past year. Over half of waste injected in Ohio last year came from out of state.

Unlike Class I, Class II wells are not designed for hazardous waste. Due to exemptions from federal hazardous waste regulations, oil and gas waste is not legally classified as hazardous.

“Declaring it legally non-hazardous doesn’t make it any less hazardous. The fracking waste being dumped into Class II wells contains highly toxic toluene, benzene, and other neurotoxic, carcinogenic, and radioactive substances, all of which are regulated as hazardous for all other industries under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act and hazardous waste regulations.” said ACFAN member Nancy Pierce. “Ohio does not monitor drinking or groundwater around any Class II injection wells. I don’t understand how Heidi Hetzel-Evans can repeatedly claim these wells haven’t contaminated water when ODNR does not monitor water or soil to find out whether there’s contamination from its wells.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics “recommends that families with private drinking water wells in NGE/HF [natural gas extraction/hydraulic fracturing] areas should consider testing the wells before drilling begins and on a regular basis thereafter for chloride, sodium, barium, strontium and VOCs … ” This is not surprising, given that industry admits that eventual well failure is inevitable. A recent Propublica series documents thousands of cases of well failure and fluid migration from Class I and II injection wells nationwide. In one Ohio case, “pollution had risen 1,400 feet through solid rock and was progressing toward surface aquifers” from a Class I well before the breach was discovered.

Athens County Fracking Action Network and Appalachia Resist are planning a coordinated response to this clear breach of the public trust. This response will include a march from the Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St., to ODNR offices, 360 E State St., where citizens who wish to address one another have been assigned to a “free speech zone” outside. Citizens who wish to participate in the march are asked to meet at 5:30 p.m. in the west foyer near the Athens Community Center meeting rooms. The march will begin at 6 p.m. People who plan to attend the march and rally are asked to dress warmly and bring a flashlight and a mug. Hot beverages will be provided.

Here's the language in Ohio law that requires a public hearing if the public raises relevant and valid concerns about health and safety:

OAC1501:9-3-06(E)(2)(c): If an objection is received, the chief shall rule upon the validity of the objection. If, in the opinion of the chief, such objection is not relevant to the issues of public health or safety, or to good conservation practices, or is without substance, a permit shall be issued. If the chief considers any objection to be relevant to the issues of public health or safety, or to good conservation practices, or to have substance, a hearing shall be called within thirty days of receipt of the objection. Such hearing shall be held at the central office of the division or other location designated by the chief. Notice of the hearing shall be sent by the chief to the applicant and to the person who has filed the objection.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

 

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The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

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We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

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What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

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Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

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The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

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"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.