Backyard Talk

Even if Prepared – If No One Sounds The Alarm Someone Gets Hurt

They called 911 but never alerted the residents – They evacuated 22 families as the oil spilled out but won’t tell us the risks – the train derailment is being cleaned up but people are still sick — the seven inch well stack exploded into the air like a missile – Where are the Protections?

In Montrose Borough, PA a woman was concerned and curious about a loud noise coming from a fracking site not too far from her home. Vera Scroggins decided to take a ride and find out what was happening. She described this journey in her letter to the editor.

“I was in a friend’s living room on March 19th in Montrose Borough, Pa., Susquehanna County, at about 5 p.m., and heard a loud noise going on for eventually over an hour and it sounded almost like a gas flare but later found out it was an ESD release, an emergency shutdown, of pipelines as part of safety measures and routine maintenance.

I followed the sound to Sterling Rd., South Montrose, about 2 miles away or more and it was loudest there. People, like myself, were driving around trying to find out what this was. This was a new experience for me. I have found out that gases were released for over an hour and we, the community are being exposed to this by Williams Gas.”

It is amazing how this story is the same as the story from families living around chemical plants, pipelines, incinerators, dumpsites and so many more dangerous places. Government and corporate profiteers get away with releasing chemicals accidentally or on purpose and don’t have to notify people at risk.

As a result there is no way for innocent families to prepare themselves for the danger. Families often think about fire and have a fire alarm or explain to children in the event of a fire in the homes here is what you do. Schools across the country have fire drills so that students and staff are prepared in the event of a fire.

Yet in communities like Vera’s or most recently March 29th in Arkansas a pipeline rupture where tar sands sludge spilled 12,000 barrels of oil throughout the community causing the evacuation of at least 22 families. March 30th a fracking explosion shot a huge, long pipe into the air landing in the cab of a construction truck. Earlier in March in Paulsboro, NJ a train derailed and a toxic cloud covered the area people were confused about what to do but worse they were told the risk was low. Yet a 77 year old woman died after breathing those toxic chemicals from the train derailment.

Vera is right when she said in her letter, when she talked about the lack of notification and preparedness for such accidents. “No one in the community was notified except 911 about this. We need to know who to call when this happens and be told what it is to allay our fears and anxiety. And we need to know what the health impacts from gases being released from pipelines in this instance and any more that will happen in the future.”

In all of these situations we often talk about the issues in a bigger broader context but the past month has really demonstrated how local the issues are and that our focus needs to include large policies or regulatory change but also change that can address the many needs for safety notification and enforcement at the local frontline communities.

Vera and other just like her across the country want answers and help. It’s time to focus on these needs.

Backyard Talk

A day in the life of CHEJ staff.

A Cold Wednesday in March Demonstrated the reach CHEJ has and how much is really accomplished.

A Cold, Windy and Snowy Day Did Not Stop Us.

Wednesday March 6th a storm was brewing across the Midwest and Northeast.  Despite the snow and travel warnings CHEJ’s leaders moved forward.  Here is what happened on that cold, windy and snowy Wednesday in March.

A day in the life of CHEJ

As I juggle calls from activists across the state of Ohio working on fracking, deep well injection, air pollution, cancer clusters and more I’m freezing outside at and anti injection well rally at the state capital.  Cold and tired watching e-mails cross my phone from CHEJ’s home office I realize how much CHEJ does in a day to move the country toward a safe, healthy and justice place for American families.

While I’m in Columbus, Ohio participating with my neighbors and friends to speak out about fracking waste disposal.  Even with the nasty weather, over 125 people gather at the state house to ask legislators to  stop accepting out-of-state fracking wastes. Ohio now has over 200 injection wells and last year accepted  581,559,594 gallons (that’s right over 581 million gallons) of fracking wastes.

My co-worker is working on greening the market place organized a shareholder action in Arizona around Disney’s use of poison plastic in toys and other children’s products.  This morning a shareholder action was held in Phoenix, Arizona.  Leaders handed out informational packets to Disney shareholders to ask them to stop using PVC the poison plastic in their toys.  Many shareholders had no idea that toys were being made in a way that could harm young children.

Commemorating 35th Anniversary of Love Canal

In New York City

That same evening a celebration and fundraiser was held in New York City with our Executive Director Lois Gibbs.  This was our first event  of several, commemorations of Love Canal events 35 years ago were underway.  Chevy and Jayni Chase joined us as our special guest along with 67 others who braved the weather to celebrate with us that evening.  CHEJ surpassed our fundraising goal at the event and launched the Leadership Training Academy.  Great time was had by all with great food, drinks, conversations with colleagues and a preview of the new documentary A Fierce Green Fire, The Battle for A Living Planet.

Backyard Talk

How Ohio handles radioactive waste from oil/gas drilling

Ohio has an amazing way to make the radioactive waste produced by the oil/gas industry just disappear.  How you ask, just mix the radium 226 and 228 with dirt until the levels are only 5 picocuries above background.  There are two other options that Ohio gives industry, send the waste to a low level waste site in Oregon or to a landfill in Michigan that takes the radioactive waste below 50 picocuries.  Gee, wonder which one is cheapest for the oil/gas industry.

Ohio also is considering allowing the “beneficial use” of drill cutting.  They say nothing about testing of this toxic, radioactive waste.  Save landfill space is their cry.  One way Ohio is saving space is by using the drill cuttings as landfill cover.  Did Ohio consider that this waste may become airborne? Remember this is Ohio.

Maybe we should require that the multimillionaires of the oil and gas industry live next to the landfills or injection wells that take the drilling waste.  Just like during the Roman Empire when an architect built one of the still standing arches they were pretty sure that the arch was safe to walk under because, when they built one, the empire made the Designer/Architect stand under it while they removed the supports after construction.

Backyard Talk

An Interesting Reaction

I wish someone could explain to me why an Ohio citizen was arrested on the spot and charged with a fifth degree felony for inducing panic for blocking an injection well, while a company (Hardrock Excavating) was caught red handed intentionally and illegally disposing of toxic brine, drilling mud and oil into a storm drain in Youngstown, OH.  But in this case nobody was arrested on the spot.

Madeline ffitch from Athens County blocked the entrance to an injection well by inserting her arms into two fifty-five gallons drums filled with cement.  Soon on the scene was the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, Albany Police, Albany Fire Department, Athens Fire Department, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Wildlife officer.  These local departments were joined by the Ohio State Highway Patrol tactical team who were flown in by helicopter from Columbus to handle this one woman.  Also, every supporter that had gathered to show support for Madeline was harassed by the sheriff’s office and asked for their name and social security number because they were witness to a crime.  Some citizens who didn’t know better complied. Talk about an overreaction by the local and state officials.

Now compare what Madeline did trying to protect her community to the illegal dumping of toxic brine, drilling mud and oil in Youngstown.  During the month of January the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had received several anonymous tips that illegal dumping was occurring but failed to investigate. (This doesn’t surprise citizens because ODNR has also ignored several complaints from citizens who have witnessed brine spills.) It wasn’t until another anonymous tip on February 1st that ODNR even went to the location.  ODNR was joined by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

When the state and federal agencies approached the dumper he admitted what he was doing and informed the agencies that he had been instructed to do so by the company owner.  The company owner, Ben Lupo, owns several companies including several injection wells in Ohio.  One of these wells was found to have caused the earthquakes in Youngstown during 2011 and 2012.

While investigating the dumping the agencies saw a brine hauling tanker leave the scene with the company name of Mohawk on the side of the tanker.  However, Mohawk did not have a license to transport brine in Ohio.  In fact, Mohawk was using the UIC identification number issued to Hardrock Excavating.  Yet, another illegal act.

A week after the dumping was discovered ODNR revoked all the permits for D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating.  The decision by ODNR to revoke the permits can still be appealed by D&L Energy and Hardrock, which are owned by the same person who ordered the dumping.

U.S. EPA estimated 40,000 gallons of water had been removed from the Mahoning River. EPA investigators also estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of oil had been dumped into the storm drain which drains into a tributary which empties into the Mahoning River.  Communities downstream were notified that they should shut down the water intakes.

Talk about under reaction by state officials.

Who should be considered the felon here?

Backyard Talk

Ohio citizens beat the ODNR at their attempt to play the old control game of divide and conquer.

We all know the tactic where an agency sets up separate tables in large banquet or meeting rooms to break a meeting up into small discussion groups. This effectively keeps valuable information that would otherwise be revealed in the general discussion from being heard by the larger group, which would have enhanced communal brainstorming and questioning of the process or problem that is the citizens concern. This suppresses any controversial discussions that doesn’t fit the agency agenda, and inhibits networking or brainstorming on the issue.

Over 100 Athens County citizens had requested a “public hearing” on a new permit to convert an old oil well into a class II injection well.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources denied the citizens request and instead announced that they (ODNR) would hold an “informational meeting” instead.

The following paragraph was included in the ODNR announcement to the community.

“Public safety and traffic: Car-pooling to this meeting is strongly encouraged as attendance is expected to be high and parking is limited. The venue’s parking lot cannot accommodate buses. For public safety considerations, only small personal items and purses will be permitted inside the venue; for example, book bags and knapsacks will not be allowed inside the venue. All bags may be subject for inspection by law enforcement. Out of courtesy to the proceedings and participants, no video cameras, demonstrations or signs and banners will be permitted inside the venue. A “free speech zone” will be designated outside for those wishing to display signs and banners. “

More than seventy-five residents were crowded inside ODNR Athens headquarters when they took matters into their own hands and transformed the ODNR’S planned “open house” into the public hearing they had requested.  The crowd was made up of concerned landowners, farmers, business owners, and mothers with young children.  Ex-county commissioner Roxanne Groff hosted the impromptu event.  She began by acknowledging Rick Simmers, Chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management, and moved on to take prepared public comments from the assembled crowd.  ODNR personnel were visibly at a loss.  Law enforcement quickly interrupted Groff, asking her to leave, at which point Groff asked the public if they would like her to continue.  The room broke into enthusiastic applause.  After law enforcement again ordered residents to leave, the crowd broke into a “mic check”, chanting as they left the building “The ODNR has been bought by the oil and gas industry!” “No new permits!” “When is the public hearing?”  When the public left, the room was nearly empty, except for ODNR personnel and the large law enforcement presence they had invited.

After the public was ordered out, they were met outside by over 100 Athens County residents who had marched down E. State St. to ODNR headquarters to voice their objection to the ODNR’s continuing disregard of the widespread community concern about Class II injection wells.

The marchers carried placards emblazoned with skulls and held a banner that read “Shut it Down! No New Wells!” and signs with slogans such as “Our Safety is Not for Sale”, “Defend Our Water”, “We Demand a Public a Hearing”, and “I Want my Concerns on Record” “.  Marchers wore hazmat style suits and respirators to draw attention to the fact that Class II injection wells accept massive amounts of radioactive fracking waste from out-of-state.

Community objection to injection wells has been increasing lately, as landowners have realized that they do not have any say if an injection well goes into operation on or near their property.  Ms. Malvena Frost, who owns the property on which the Atha injection well is proposed in Rome Township, Athens County, 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 ODNR by her attorney, Mike Hollingsworth.

As soon as this tactic was apparent, citizens labeled it as such, a “divide and conquer tactic”.  Once you label a tactic publicly, it loses its power.  This and many other industry/agency tactics can be countered with a minimum of wasted effort by keeping the lines of communication open with your fellow citizens and other similar interested organization.

Congratulations  to Athens County Frack Action Network and Appalachia Resist and the citizens of Athens County, Ohio for standing up for your community.

Backyard Talk

Halloween Nightmare

I dreamed that just as I entered a Halloween haunted house the first monster I ran into was Frackenstine.  Just like the book Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley about a creature produced by an unorthodox scientific experiment I noticed that the Frackenstine that stood before me was also made up by combining many parts.  Frackenstines legs turned out to be the Ohio legislature that gave the monster his legs to make his way around Ohio, his torso was made of the Ohio oil and gas industry, his arms were the different state agencies that gave the monster the strength to strong-arm Ohio communities by not allowing citizens or local government to have any say into whether or not they wanted this massive industrial process to destroy their community.  The Frackenstine monster was so big I was having a hard time seeing who or what made up the head  but as I moved farther away from the monster I could see that the monsters head was Ohio’s own governor, Governor John Kasich who has become the mouthpiece and cheerleader for industry.

Down a long dark hallway I came to a closed door, as I opened the door I saw a room full of bubbling cauldrons.  As I looked around the room I saw thousands of Material Safety Data Sheets with all of the toxic chemicals blacked out.  There was also a flashing sign that warned of radiation.  While trying to read all of the signs I was suddenly approached by someone dressing in a hazardous materials moonsuit telling me that bubbling brew was safe and not to worry.  Even though he was dressed in protective garb he informed me that I was not allowed to know what was in the bubbling toxic brew and the door was quickly closed in my face.  As the door closed I could hear the sinister laugh of a crazy person who had spent too much time inhaling the toxic vapors of the bubbling cauldrons full of fracking fluid.

As I continued down the dark hallway I turned a corner and was face to face with a Vampire with blood dripping from his fangs. NO wait, it wasn’t blood dripping, I realized his fangs are drilling rigs that were dripping oil and he is hungry for more and more.  He can’t get enough; he is sinking his rigs into hundreds of thousands of acres of Mother Earth just to see if he can find more oil or gas to feed his needs.  I thought if I can just hold out until dawn the sun would destroy this vampire, but I was so wrong.

As I was about to exit the haunted house I heard the screams of the banshee foretelling the death of life as we know it.  No longer will we have local communities where we can cross the street without worrying about being hit by one of the thousands of trucks or being harassed by out of state workers that have no since of pride for the community.  We face industrial facilities in places where they have no business being in.

But wait, I suddenly realized I was not asleep, I was not having a nightmare.  What I had thought was a horrible nightmare was indeed reality for many communities in Ohio and across the nation that are faced with the nightmare known as fracking.

Backyard Talk

Ohioans letter to NY Governor

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We, the undersigned Ohioans, are writing to request that you oppose shale gas extraction via ‘fracking’ in all areas of New York, to include the Southern tier. Such development would be irresponsible not only for the reasons outlined below, but also due to the lacking infrastructure for proper disposal of fracking waste products within your state.

Because neighboring New Jersey will not accept out of state fracking waste, Ohio becomes a likely target for the disposal of the fluid by-products of fracking. Ohio relies on class II injection wells for disposal of such fluids. In recent years we’ve experienced increasing numbers and magnitudes of earthquakes as a result of this process. A moratorium was issued by our state due to the severity of the issue. Thus, Ohio’s current injection well space is at or over capacity. Should we be expected to receive New York waste, our citizens will be forced to endure many more injection wells in their communities.

The undersigned Ohioans oppose more injection wells. As recently as this month the city of Cincinnati voted unanimously to ban waste injection wells and the NRDC and others submitted comments detailing the proposed regulations of Ohio injection wells do not meet minimum standards. See:

We also endorse the following:

1. Letter from eleven national environmental groups collectively representing millions of members nationwide. See:

2. Coalition letter with more than 22,000 signatories which requests that Governor Cuomo withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS until 17 documented concerns have been fully resolved. See:

3. Coalition letter with more than 2,700 signatories that opposes any fracking “Demonstration Project” in the Southern Tier and requests strict enforcement of Executive Order No. 41. See:…

Respectfully Submitted,

Kari Matsko, Director People’s Oil & Gas Collaborative- Ohio

Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Ohio field office

Cheryl Johncox, Executive Director Buckeye Forest Council

Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director Ohio Citizen Action

Heather Cantino,  Athens County Fracking Action Network, Athens OH

Laurie Eliot-Shea/Nathan Johnson, No Frack Ohio Coalition

Greg Pace, Guernsey County Citizens Support on Drilling Issues, Columbus, OH

Bill Baker, Frack Free Ohio, Mansfield, OH

Monica Beasley-Martin, Defenders of the Earth Outreach Mission, Liberty, OH

Susie Beiersdorfer, Frackfree Mahoning Valley Trumbull/Mahoning Counties, OH

Kathie Jones, Concerned Citizens of Medina County Medina, OH

Lori Babbey, Concerned Citizens of Portage County Portage County, OH

Gwen B. Fischer, Concerned Citizens Ohio Portage County, OH

Terry Grange, Marengo OH 43334

Barbara R. Wolf, Cincinnati, OH 45206

Robin Webb Butler, Ohio 44822

Joanne Gerson, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum

Jack Shaner, Deputy Director Ohio Environmental Council

John Rumpler, Senior Attorney Environment Ohio

Kathryn Hanratty, Water Advocate Frack-Free Geauga Chardon, OH

Fr.. Neil Pezzulo, Glenmary Home Missioners Cincinnati, Ohio

Lea Harper, FreshWater Accountability Project Grand Rapids, OH

Tish O’Dell, Co-Founder MADION, Mothers Against Drilling In Our Neighborhoods BroadviewHeights,OH

Chris Borello, President Concerned Citizens of Lake Twp./Uniontown IEL Superfund SiteUniontown,OH

Diana Ludwig, Frackfree America National Coalition Youngstown, OH

Lynn Anderson/Tim Raridon, Guardians of Mill Creek Park Youngstown, OH

Margaret Fenton, Berryfield Farm Centerburg, OH

Mary Greer, Concerned Citizens Ohio/Shalersville Shalersville, OH

Dr. Deborah Fleming Professor of English and Chair of the Department Ashland University

Backyard Talk

Ohio Grassroots Call Out Lies of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association

During recent testimony on Ohio Governor Kasich so called “energy bill”, Tom Stewart, vice-president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association testified that Ohio has the highest quality crude oil known to be produced in the world.  He testified that the crude is highly paraffinic and that they skim off the paraffin at the refineries to make candy out of it and also use it for coating on items like Advil and M&M’s.

Members of Frack Free Ohio sent Mr. Stewart some personalize M&M’s that read “Don’t Frac Ohio, Complements of Frack Free Ohio” and also posted on Mar’s Facebook page demanding to know if it is true that paraffin from crude oil is used to make the coating on M&M’s.  This morning a member of Frack Free Ohio received this from the company;

M&M’s U.S.A.
“Only high quality ingredients that meet or exceed all federal standards are used to manufacture M&M’S® Chocolate Candies. Only materials made from natural plant sources are used to coat the outside of the candies. Any information to the contrary is inaccurate.”

People should go to M&M’s Facebook and ask the company to either admit to using well paraffinic from oil and gas wells or to request a public apology and retraction from Tom Stewart. Here is M&M’s Facebook link

Here’s summary of the transcript of Tom Stewarts testimony:

Let me give you a good example. If you have a gas well, that flows naturally, but it produces some water, and if you don’t maintain that well, in such a way, the water will build up and creates hydrostatic weight in the formation and the well will stop producing.

You got a couple ways you can solve that problem. You can go into the well and swab it out, you can try putting pump equipment and get it to pump out, or you can try to get the well to flow again. Here’s how a producer gets it to flow again, he goes to the grocery store and he buys, Tide, and he puts it down the backside of the well which causes it to bubble up and foam up, lighten the fluid and the well flows.

So to ask the question, what do you want me, as a producer, to give you the CAS number of… Tide? ‘Cuz it’s something that’s put down the well and it’s stripped and brought back.

You’re pumping the well (unintelligible) with pump jacks, they’re actuated by separate rods connected to a bottom hole pump where the bottom of the tube is four thousand feet deep in the ground. You’re pumping that well, over time, scale builds up on the balls and seats that actuate the pump. . . You can put scale remover down the, uh, back side of that well, pump it up through the tubing, it eliminates the scale you don’t have to pull the well or the tubing for it pump. Ohio produces, probably the highest quality crude oil known to be produced in the world, it’s Penngrade 38 degree oil.  It’s highly paraffinic, they actually skim the paraffin off in refineries and make candy out of it, they also make, the coatings on Advil and M&M’s, so when you’re eating your next box of M&M’s, you’re eating crude oil.

And here is the You Tube link to word for word testimony.  Click here: Tom Stewart Testifies at Ohio Statehouse – YouTube