(COLUMBUS, OH) A letter by Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services of Akron, Ohio written on behalf of Freshwater Accountability Project was sent to Governor DeWine recently outlining deficiencies in Ohio’s regulatory scheme regarding unconventional shale drilling (fracking). The letter describes how Ohio has allowed the industry to proliferate in the state without adequate oversight and regulations to the extent that Ohio’s primacy to implement and enforce major federal environmental laws must be seriously questioned. The letter was necessitated by ongoing failures to regulate the industry through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the overseeing agency that recently promulgated 100 pages of inadequate rules for the industry with only seven days to comment, causing outrage and necessitating an immediate response.
The letter requesting intervention was sent to Governor DeWine because he is directly responsible for oversight of the agencies responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry. The Governor can best address the problems created by Ohio’s continued subsidy of the oil and gas industry, specifically fracking, including dismantled regulations giving financial props, which include cheap disposal of hazardous waste and lack of adequate bonds and severance taxes. The letter demanded Governor DeWine immediately ban further fracking in the state until the its risks to human health are understood, and until sufficient regulations are in place to protect Ohio’s citizens.
Specific complaints outlined are:
▪ The Ohio EPA has been given insufficient statutory authority to regulate significant risks to the environment and human health.
▪ Ohio must address regulatory loopholes that prevent comprehensive regulation of the toxic and radioactive waste created by oil and gas development.
▪ The state has not developed and implemented an adequate environmental justice program, which means that impoverished regions can be unfairly exploited by the oil and gas industry.
▪ The state has not developed effective protocols to track the production, transport, and disposal of radioactive material to the extent that serious environmental and public health harms will likely occur.
The demand letter concludes, “Oil and gas regulation in Ohio is inadequate to protect human health, safety, and environment, and many of those living in Ohio’s shale play suffer as a result. Furthermore, the inadequate regulation of oil and gas waste in the state, threatens Ohio’s ability to maintain its primacy in carrying out the CWA (Clean Water Act) and RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act). FreshWater respectfully requests that that Governor issue a moratorium on all further gas development until the risks of development in the State of Ohio are better understood and until and unless reasonable regulations have been put in place to remedy these grave issues.”
Lea Harper, Managing Director of FreshWater Accountability Project commented: “The Governor is accountable for the harms caused by fracking under his watch. He can no longer shirk responsibility and allow the state to continue without the necessary regulatory structure to fulfill its obligations to retain primacy to implement important federal regulations. Ohio is irresponsibly, if not deliberately and dangerously shirking its responsibilities to adequately enforce environmental laws. The Governor must answer to this, especially now that it is brought to his attention.”
Teresa Mills, Program Director for Buckeye Environmental Network, agreed stating: “The recent rule changes proposed by the ODNR are evidence that Ohio’s regulatory scheme will continue to accommodate the oil/gas industry at the expense of its residents. Governor DeWine has the obligation and responsibility to investigate and intervene on behalf of Ohio communities. If he chooses not to intervene he will be the one to answer for the catastrophes caused by the state’s lack of adequate regulation and oversight.”
As continuing public health harms attributed to fracking demonstrate, the Governor should issue a ban on fracking and frack waste disposal in the state until the environmental injustices and public health risks are fully understood and addressed.