Protecting our water. Preserving our future.

Oil & Gas Supporters Disrupt Public Information Meeting

Bullies in the Back

On Saturday, March 3, 2012, an information meeting took place at the Guernsey County Library, Cambridge, Ohio. The meeting was planned by the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water (SOASOW) to provide information for those who were interested to learn more about the issues posed by the high volume, slick water, horizontal hydraulic fracturing and waste injecting practices that are planned to take place in Ohio. The meeting was intended to educate those who had questions and concerns about how the relatively new industry practice coming to the area could affect them personally, specifically their fresh water supply, and to encourage base line water testing in advance of drilling.

The director of the library cautioned the presenters, Lea Harper of Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water, and Leslie Harper, Northwest Ohio Alliance to Stop Fracking, that he had been contacted at home the night before by anonymous people who did not want the meeting to take place. Before the start time, the meeting room filled with 25 – 30 pro-gas industry representatives who attended to discredit the presenters, the facts that had been gathered and disrupt the meeting. There were five to seven people who came to learn more about how hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) could affect them, and they sat up front. They had questions that they wanted to ask, such as how mandatory pooling could affect them, and what could be done about it. One attendee was concerned about the amount of water pollution that was already taking place, threatening Wills Creek. Another meeting attendee spoke up and said he wanted all the facts because he was concerned about how the problems experienced with fracking could affect his grandchildren.

The “bullies in the back” continually interrupted and challenged the information, sometimes giving misleading information themselves. Although Lea Harper, the organizer, asked them repeatedly to leave, they stayed, disrupting the meeting for the few people who wanted to learn more. A person in the back was videotaping the meeting, and when Lea Harper told him he did not have permission, the videotaping continued without permission. When the person who would not identify himself was approached to get information about who he was, he fled. There was a person in the audience who identified himself as a lawyer, and when asked if he was part of the Southeast Ohio Landowners Association, and if he was going to sue the presenters, there was no reply. When the people in the back were asked where they were from, they said the Oil and Gas Industry. A Guernsey County Commissioner also attended the meeting, but did not identify himself to the presenters or explain why he was there, but remained in the back with the pro-industry supporters. It was a very threatening environment with constant disruptions and accusations being made to interfere with the purpose of the meeting which was to point out ways in which fracking needs improvement and suggest ways it could monitored with more accountability for the companies involved to avoid problems that have occurred in other states.

It was disheartening to the presenters that such bullying could take place with the purpose create a threatening environment. When Lea Harper was asked if she would make another presentation, she stated she didn’t want to, but as a property owner in Guernsey County, she would have to, especially when an elderly gentleman who had served in World War II came up to her later and told her, “Keep doing what you are doing. Don’t let them get to you.”

“If someone who has served our country in such a brave way can look me in the eye and encourage me to keep going, we are going to do so,” Lea stated. “He has faced much more than I have, and if we can get information to him and his wife about how fracking could affect his small farm, we will. That’s what America is all about, I think – the right to free expression and to publicly organize without threat. What I saw today was a shocking display of adult bullying and attempted intimidation. There were a few people who came here today who wanted information and had concerns they wanted to talk about. What happened instead was downright un-American.”

The Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water is committed to preserving clean water and to pre-empting possible environmental degradation while establishing accountability on behalf of those who may be detrimentally affected and deserve compensation if their water and quality of life are adversely affected by hydraulic fracturing activities, including injection wells and waste disposal, which also includes the spreading of “brine” (frack waste) on public roadways.

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If you would like more information about this incident, to contact others who witnessed the event, or to schedule an interview, please contact the representatives at 419-450-7042 or 419-308-8993.

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