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Proposed Rules by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Challenged

Proposed Rules by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Challenged

Contact: Lea Harper, Managing Director, wewantcleanwater@gmail.com

Terry Lodge, Attorney, lodgelaw@yahoo.com

(Grand Rapids, OH) A coalition of 27 grassroots environmental organizations and 15 Ohio individual citizens have joined together and formally challenged new rules proffered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to weaken air quality regulation for compressor station installations, which are key parts of gas mega-pipelines planned to serve the unconventional shale drilling (fracking) industry. The coalition, led by the FreshWater Accountability Project with support from the Buckeye Forest Council and Food and Water Watch, formed in opposition to OEPA’s efforts to “streamline and expedite” this important aspect of permitting process, which would further promote the horizontal hydrofracking (fracking) industry in Ohio. The streamlining, activists claim, comes at the expense of local residents who are likely to be detrimentally impacted by toxic chemical and radiological exposures in the vicinity of compressor stations.

If the OEPA grants such “general permits” to polluters for these facilities, there will be no public notice or comment period as a prerequisite to controlling emissions of benzene, volatile organic chemicals, radon gas and radium-226. Moreover, polluters will be able to keep the permit even if they are polluting beyond the allowable amount. Despite growing opposition from local citizens who object to fracking and mega-pipeline projects in their communities, there would be no means to voice opposition under the proposed shift to general permits.

The opponents asserted in their letter that, “The proposed permitting scheme does not provide specific, technically accurate limits on potential to emit and does not establish specific operating parameters to ensure those limits are achieved,” which could then put the proposed general permitting process in violation of Federal laws. Another claimed omission is specific to unconventional gas: “There are no provisions for identification of, measurement of, or mitigation of releases of radon gas, Ra-226, Ra-228, Th-232 or other radioisotopes common to hydraulically-fractured gas,” thus allowing radon and radioactive particulate matter to be emitted without regulation. The letter to the OEPA can be accessed at: http://www.fwap.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/FINAL-comments.pdf.

The coalition leaders continue to try to understand the reasoning behind this policy change by the OEPA in order to inform and organize those who are likely to be most affected in anticipation of a second, formal comment period required by law. “The OEPA cannot be used as a captive regulatory agency to serve the fracking industry rather than the citizens of Ohio,” stated Lea Harper, Managing Director of FreshWater Accountability Project. “This scheme would exclude the very people who would be most impacted, and is essentially a way to promote more fracking through expediting pipeline build-out and permitting, leaving citizens with no options for dissent or the ability to demand necessary oversight. We need to make sure that any new rules put in place will strengthen public protections rather than dilute the already inadequate regulatory and enforcement schemes for the highly toxic and environmentally damaging industry of unconventional shale drilling.”

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