Dear Governor Kasich:
FreshWater Accountability Ohio is a small grassroots organization, and you have heard from us before. We are writing once again to urgently request your attention and intervention to protect Ohioans from environmental harm and adverse public health effects caused by the temporary, toxic and highly unregulated industry of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Specifically, we are requesting that your office investigate the issuance of “Chief’s Orders” for the operation of frack waste treatment, recycling and processing facilities per the enclosed letter sent 6/4/14 to your direct report at the ODNR, Director Zehringer, with a list of the facilities involved.
Governor Kasich, we know that you know what the fracking industry and its massive waste problem is doing to Ohioan’s health, property values and long-term economic growth. We know that you could intervene in order to avoid the destruction of our drinking water, the contamination of our air, and the clean-up costs that will be visited upon future generations of Ohioans once the fracking industry leaves the state. We specifically ask that you review our enclosed appeal to the — USEPA and do what needs to be done to remove the permitting authority of the ODNR before the — USEPA does, or a challenge through the courts is made.
Through the information you have and what has been provided in the past, we know that you are fully aware of the hazards of the industry. We aim to hold those accountable who would look the other way while our air and water are polluted with toxic and radioactive frack waste. There are some laws and criminal statutes left in Ohio’s dismantled regulatory environment that can be used to hold the frack industry polluters and their upstream and downstream suppliers accountable. Those who hide behind dismantled regulations to exploit the frack industry’s opportunity to turn Ohio into an industrial wasteland can still be imprisoned once the damage is realized. Those who seek to make huge, temporary profits through their LLC’s thinking they can just disband their operations and abandon their investors can still be brought to justice. In the longer term, history will look back on your governorship and questions will be asked about how Ohio could have so readily been sacrificed for a temporary, toxic industry that exploited valuable natural resources, destroying air and water, just to make huge corporate profits by shipping their ill-gotten spoils overseas to the highest bidders.
Examples are apparent from the information provided by the ODNR through a public records request contained in the enclosed CD. These are the files we received that were used to justify the “Chief’s Orders” issued by the ODNR to allow temporary authorization for toxic frack waste facilities to operate without adequate oversight that can lead to disaster. A good example are the Chief’s Orders issued to allow the Enviro-Tank company at Belpre, Ohio to operate, where an explosion burned three workers, one critically, in June. If the records provided us are complete, the company was authorized to operate without even naming the chemicals it would be handling. The order letter fails even to commit the company to implement the sparse statements made in its application for the order. As a result, these waste facilities, which handle radioactive and chemically toxic material containing acids and corrosives and are flammable, operate using secretive processes. We suspect that even the ODNR cannot accurately identify the process steps at a facility such as Enviro-Tank from the application information so routinely approved. And the ODNR lacks legal inspection authority which would allow any of its representatives to go into the plant. A fair reading of the Enviro-Tank order leads to the conclusion that all materials handling processes, necessary equipment, and staff training were left entirely to the discretion of the company owner. The rubber-stamped approval of such incomplete, inadequate and unregulated facilities to operate to handle such hazardous materials insures that there will be more industrial tragedies in the future. It is your personal responsibility to hold your political appointee, Director Zehringer, accountable for authorizing such facilities that could allow such disasters to happen.
Because of the silence from your office and the ODNR on so many fracking-related issues, Ohio citizens have formally petitioned the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a public trial on the question of whether the federal agency should nullify the contract between Ohio EPA and the US EPA for the state agency to administer the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. The legislative changes over the past four years which have largely terminated Ohio EPA’s mandatory oversight of fracking waste disposal are legally unsupportable and threaten the environment and public health throughout the state. Since your agencies no longer consistently protect the public, the environment and industry worker health and safety, we are taking necessary action ourselves.
We look to you for leadership and responsibility to give direction to the regulatory agencies under your charge that are allowing disastrous consequences to Ohio citizens to unfold at future exorbitant taxpayer cost for cleanup and remediation (if even possible). As the industry continues to externalize its costs to the public and Ohio increasingly becomes the oil and gas waste dumping ground of choice for other states as well, we ask that you as our elected representative fulfill your obligations to citizens of the state and intervene to remove the ODNR’s permitting authority for horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations and its waste handling and disposal facilities. Thank you for your immediate attention to this serious situation.
Leatra (Lea) Harper
FreshWater Accountability Project
cc: State Attorney General Michael DeWine