FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Toledo, OH) Last Friday, July 11, a certified letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) was sent outlining Ohio’s insufficient regulation of radioactive oil and gas waste and the imminent harm Ohio residents will face as a result.
Attorney for the FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP), Terry Lodge of Toledo, submitted a detailed case to the USEPA outlining Ohio’s deliberate removal of key environmental protections that put Ohioans at risk of water contamination from radioactive drilling waste. Lea Harper, Managing Director of FWAP, explained: “Lawmakers have left Ohio EPA’s regulations on the books, but now require that OEPA can regulate oil and gas industry waste treatment and disposal only if invited to, in writing, by the ODNR. This just isn’t happening.”
An example of how this works is the proposed EnerGreen waste dump near Barnesville in Belmont County. EnerGreen proposes to fill a valley with a combination of fracking wastes and coal ash, with no monitoring wells, landfill liners, or other protections to slow down the flow of poisons into groundwater. Up to 13,000,000 tons of waste will be dumped over a dozen years and left exposed to the elements, supposedly to create flat land for an industrial park. The ODNR issued secret “Chief’s Orders” which contain no requirements to protect the environment or public health. Despite the presence of surface water and aquifers, the Ohio EPA is only being asked to review and comment, not to impose any legal restrictions on the operation. Under Governor Kasich’s politically-appointed agency heads, the ODNR can issue authorizations for waste facilities to serve the coal and fracking industries that now Ohio EPA cannot adequately regulate. The results will be toxic and radioactive waste processing facilities located throughout Ohio that can pollute the air and leach contaminated water into drinking water sources for literally thousands of years.
“We hope the federal government will intervene to investigate and remove the State of Ohio’s ability to implement regulations to comply with federal requirements for the National Pollution Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES) permitting,” stated Attorney for FWAP, Terry Lodge. “Because of the Chief’s Orders issued by the ODNR for waste disposal and its reckless permitting of frack pads and injection wells, Ohio’s surface and groundwater supplies are in serious jeopardy of lethal contamination. “This has been an unacceptable situation for some time now, and is rapidly worsening with the recent temporary authorizations by the ODNR to allow frack waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities that are basically unregulated. ”
The hazards of these facilities became evident when an explosion at one of the authorized facilities in Washington County, Enviro Clean, injured three people.
This is not FWAP’s first attempt to remedy Ohio’s deregulation of the drilling industry. In a certified letter dated June 4 to Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, and ODNR Chief, Richard Simmers, and Director, James Zehringer, state officials were notified that the “temporary authorizations” the department issues for waste disposal, dumping, treatment, and recycling are likely illegal. The state has yet to respond to this letter: (http://fwap.org/state-attorney-general-alerted-to-illegal-orders-by-odnr). Parties to the impending lawsuit are now being assembled. Governor Kasich will be given sent that letter and the USEPA appeal and asked to step in immediately to stop the authorization and construction of these facilities to avoid necessary legal action if possible.
“We could learn from the hard lessons that other states are experiencing and take extra precaution to protect Ohio. We see and hear about the massive amount of air and water contamination in other states, largely attributed to that lack of regulation. Instead of learning, the State of Ohio is taking the lead in deregulation which legalizes the potentially dangerous impacts of the toxins and radioactivity that will be released into the environment by fracking due to inadequate protections needed to handle its waste,” stated Lea Harper. “This is a serious situation of systemic failure that must be addressed. Look at the huge fossil fuel lobbying effort, the dismantling of renewable energy programs, and huge campaign contributions, and you can see who our legislators are legislating for. It is now up to the Ohioans to take protections into their own hands since our state government cannot be trusted to do so. We hope this appeal to the Federal Government will help us avoid impending environmental catastrophe.”
While awaiting response from the USEPA, FWAP is reaching out to other local and large environmental groups to take action. Ohio citizens are increasingly opposed to the toxic, temporary industry of fracking and are now beginning to realize that appeals to the courts may be the only viable next step for residents to protect themselves.
“We don’t know that the USEPA will act quickly to intervene, investigate and remove Ohio’s primacy to implement federal regulations to protect our water,” stated Lea Harper, “but we are acting in good faith to go through the proper channels to protect our environment and property values. We are Ohioans – we live here – we care about our children and grandchildren. We do not want to leave the clean-up from the fracking industry for our future generations. We do not want our friends, family and neighbors to get sick. We have to do everything we can to stop the fracking contamination and water destruction since our government and regulators in Columbus are not.”
The certified letter to the USEPA and the list of the 23 toxic facilities given “Chief’s Permits” to operate can be found at http://fwap.org.