For Immediate Release
June 8, 2016
(Grand Rapids, OH) On June 4, 2016, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) held its annual Conservancy Court hearings in New Philadelphia, Ohio with Judge O’Farrell presiding. As has been done for previous hearings, the FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) gave the court testimony regarding the negative impacts to the region’s water due to the MWCD’s engagement in and support of horizontal hydrofracking (fracking) in the region. This industry, also called “unconventional shale drilling” is not at all like the conventional methods used to extract oil and gas in the past. Due to the depth of the drilling and the massive amount of water that is needed to “frack” a well, the industry has created environmental problems in the region, including the massive amount of toxic, radioactive waste that is created, spills and deliberate dumping of this waste, earthquakes due to the disposal of the waste in injection wells, a dangerous increase in heavy truck traffic, and the loss of millions of gallons of freshwater to the region due to the one- time consumptive use by fracking. Science has now concluded that thee air and water contamination from the industry has caused human health effects as a result of the hazardous and radioactive pollutants released by the industry.
In order to caution the MWCD about the ongoing, increasing detrimental effects to the environment and associated risks to the region’s freshwater supplies, FWAP commissioned a report by Fractracker (www.Fractracker.org) to study what had previously been identified as non-trivial impacts to the Muskingum Watershed as a result of the conservancy’s district support of the industry by facilitating its deployment in the region and selling freshwater to supply the industry’s consumptive needs. Decisions were made by the MWCD to engage in this highly unregulated, abnormally dangerous industry despite rallies, protests, citizen’s appeals and testimonies to the Conservancy Court and MWCD’s executives and Board. Now that fracking, its infrastructure and its associated waste disposal methods such as injection wells have been shown to contaminate air and water, the initial warnings about the dangers of the industry are being proven true. The pollution with hazardous and radioactive components has been legalized in order to allow fracking to take place, with the exemptions made to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other environmental protections. Local control to zone and regulate the industry was also taken from the communities that are directly impacted. The cumulative effects of fracking over time in a region have yet to be fully realized, but every day research is published warning of the hazards and the future difficulty of remediation in a region, if even possible.
“I believe we are doing a service to the Conservancy District by commissioning reports ourselves that demonstrate the dangers of the industry, starting with the Rubin report in 2012, cautioning against fracking under or near reservoirs,” stated Lea Harper, Managing Director of FWAP. “This report was dismissed, and the MWCD proceeded to lease Seneca Lake, which had been used for emergency drinking water supplies during a drought period. Seneca Lake has Wills Creek flowing in and out of it, which means any impairment to Seneca could also affect the Wills Creek Reservoir, the drinking water source for Cambridge, Ohio. We would hope that the Conservancy Court and the MWCD Board would take our scientific reports into serious consideration to avoid future damages, remediation costs, and associated lawsuits. The FracTracker report is yet another desperate attempt to protect a watershed, which we believe a conservancy district is mandated to do.”
The FracTracker report can be found at: https://fwap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/FracTracker_FWAP_Report.pdf
In its ongoing pursuit to get the courts to define the boundaries of a conservancy district’s powers in the State of Ohio, FWAP is taking the Declaratory Action that was brought against them by the MWCD into appeal. The MWCD can assume the powers of a corporation if that supports its agenda, and also as a public entity with the ability to assess taxes. The Conservancy Court has also been granted all the privileges as a Common Pleas court. “We are hopeful the courts will decide that the MWCD is solely to perform its original mandates to support recreation, conservation and flood control. It stands to reason that this would be the only reason the MWCD would be allowed to tax for the public good. This would negate its ability to profit from fracking and water sales, which is being shown to cause public harm. They simply can’t have it all ways,” stated Lea Harper, “The courts must decide the limits to a conservancy’s district’s powers, which we believe, the MWCD has seriously overstepped by supporting the fracking industry.”