We're Getting a Raw Deal from Fracking | CORR March Newsletter
Regardless of where you stand on the fracking issue, one thing is clear: we're getting a raw deal. Back in 2008, the industry promised Ohio River Valley communities that the fracking boom would bring more than 200,000 jobs to the region. We sacrificed our land, our water, even the air we breathe — so where are the jobs?
According to a new report from the Ohio River Valley Institute, since the start of the fracking boom, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia’s biggest gas-producing counties have seen their share of jobs, income, and population decline. Measures of local prosperity in the Ohio Valley have stagnated or fallen across the board, even as our region's economic output far outpaced the national average.
It's undeniable. Fracking harms our health and our economy, and things are only getting worse. The barging of radioactive frack waste along the Ohio River is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021, placing the drinking water source of five million people at risk. A single barge can hold approximately 24,000 barrels of toxic, radioactive oil and gas waste. The consequences of a spill could be catastrophic for local communities.
If you're fed up with our decision-makers prioritizing fossil fuel interests over Ohio River Valley residents, take action. A proposed revision to Ohio law would allow automatic extensions to air permits for major polluting facilities. The change places frontline communities at risk of hazardous air pollution and eliminates opportunities for public input. Voice your concerns before March 15: click here to learn more and submit a public comment. You don't have to be an Ohio resident to send in your concerns.
Barging Radioactive Frack Waste Endangers Ohio River Communities
The DeepRock Disposal Solutions barge terminal, located near Marietta, Ohio, is scheduled to begin offloading barges filled with hazardous, radioactive fracking wastewater and condensate in the first quarter of 2021.
Fracking wastewater can contain a mixture of toxic chemical additives, heavy metals, carcinogens, and even radioactive materials. Naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in the Marcellus Shale’s salt deposits can be brought to the surface along with produced water during fracking operations. Radium-226 and radium-228, both found in brine waste, are known carcinogens and can lead to bone, liver, and breast cancer in humans if levels are high enough, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, frack waste contains secret chemicals which could be extremely toxic to humans and aquatic life.
A spill at any point along the transportation chain could be catastrophic. Thousands of barrels of hazardous wastewater would be loaded and unloaded onto barges every day at various transport facilities. And transporting any substance via barge comes with a risk of spillage. In 2014, a barge spilled approximately 5,000 gallons of oil into the Ohio River 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati, closing a 15-mile stretch of the river to traffic and causing a strong odor of oil. In 2017, a barge holding more than 300,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer broke in half just south of Cincinnati, threatening the city’s water supply downstream. A year later, seven coal-carrying barges hit the Clark Memorial Bridge near downtown Louisville, releasing thousands of tons of coal into local drinking water supplies.
In the event of a spill, regional water treatment facilities are unequipped to fully decontaminate drinking water supplies. Unlike coal or oil, the radioactive chemicals in fracking waste cannot currently be filtered out with the technology and equipment available to facilities in the Ohio River Valley.
As a result of Ohio’s loose regulations on wastewater injection, Ohio has become the preeminent dumping ground for fracking waste in the Ohio Valley Region. In 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency delegated primacy enforcement authority of all injection wells in the State of Ohio to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DOGRM), allowing the state to bypass federal wastewater regulations. As a result, the state has permitted more than 226 active fracking waste injection wells, many of which are located near fracking operations above the Marcellus shale.
Conversely, Pennsylvania, which requires federal sign-off on any new injection wells, has only 16 wells. Much of Pennsylvania’s fracking waste is exported across state borders, and the majority of it ends up in Ohio. Nearly half of the more than 38 million barrels of waste injected in Ohio disposal wells in 2017 came from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to the ODNR. The latest data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shows that, in 2020, Pennsylvania exported more than 258,000,000 gallons of liquid frack waste to Ohio and more than 150,000,000 to West Virginia.
The barging of fracking waste endangers communities up and down the Ohio River, and especially Ohioans, who could see the number of injection wells in the state increase as barge transportation allows for massive amounts of toxic, radioactive wastewater to be transported to the Ohio side of the river. We object to the barging of frack waste on the Ohio River and to the resultant buildout of injection wells and frack waste processing and disposal facilities.
Sign this petition to object to the shipment of frack waste on the Ohio River and prevent Ohio from becoming the industry’s dumping ground for toxic, radioactive frack waste.
A Proposed Change to Ohio Law Grants Major Polluters Automatic Air Permit Extensions
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) is seeking a revision to Ohio law that would allow for the automatic extension of air permits-to-install (PTI) for major polluting facilities, potentially threatening local air quality and eliminating opportunities for public input. Current Ohio law requires corporations to begin constructing major polluting facilities no more than 30 months after receiving air permits-to-install (PTI) to ensure that major sources of air pollution are constructed with up-to-date pollution control standards and current air quality information.
The proposed revision would allow for the automatic extension of an installation permit by the length of time a permit was under third-party appeal, which could range from 6 months to more than 3 years. In essence, the law could allow major polluting facilities to operate under aging air regulations with outdated pollution control technology, potentially endangering local residents’ health. Additionally, automatic extensions of air permits-to-install do not require the distribution of a public notice, nor do they require OEPA to accept and address public concerns, effectively shutting citizens out of the decision-making process.
If approved, the legislative revision would allow PTT Global Chemical, the Thai corporation constructing the Dilles Bottom ethane cracker plant, to automatically extend its air permit through February 24, 2022 without any input from surrounding communities. Additionally, the facility, which could annually release hundreds of tons of hazardous, airborne pollutants linked to a host of serious health problems, would not be subject to the latest pollution control standards.
Click here to demand the U.S. EPA deny Ohio EPA’s request to allow the indefinite extension of permits for major polluting facilities under appeal.
You don't have to be an Ohio resident to submit your concerns. Please make sure to submit your comments by March 15th.
ORVI Study Shows the Fracking Boom was an Economic Bust
At the start of the fracking boom, the oil and gas industry promised our region more than 200,000 new jobs as part of a so-called “shale renaissance,” one that would bring unprecedented wealth and prosperity to struggling local communities. Regional policymakers leapt on exaggerated reports produced by the industry, sinking public resources into attracting fossil fuel corporations.
With very little regulation to impede fracking development, well pads, compressor stations, and processing facilities started spreading like wildfire, and natural gas production soared far beyond even the lofty projections of the oil and gas industry. The latest research from the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI) shows that, from 2008 to 2019, the 22 most productive natural gas counties in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania increased their economic output by 35.2%, a rate three times higher than the nation’s economic growth. Natural gas production in the region contributed tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy. Yet, in the same time period, the region’s share of the nation’s personal income fell by 6.3%. Jobs fell by 7.6%. And the region’s share of the nation’s population fell by nearly 11%. According to the ORVI report, while our economic contributions went through the roof, all of the region’s measures of local economic prosperity declined.
Economist Kathy Hipple, Bard College professor of finance and former analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said, “Simply put, the natural gas industry has not delivered the promised benefits for producers, investors — or local communities,” The ORVI report puts numbers to a sentiment we’ve long known is true: we, the residents of the Ohio Valley, are getting a raw deal. We suffer the effects of air pollution, groundwater contamination, heavy truck traffic, and decreased property values while far-off boardrooms count the profits extracted from our resources.
Do you have ideas for the future of the Ohio River Valley? Join Concerned Ohio River Residents in creating a Better Vision.
Fractured: The body burden of living near fracking Despite years of damning studies and shocking headlines about the industry's impact—primarily on poor and rural families—people that live amongst wellpads remain in the dark about what this proximity is doing to their health and the health of their families. A two-year investigation by EHN set out to close some of those gaps by measuring chemical exposures in residents' air, water, and bodies. The study found chemicals like benzene and butylcyclohexane in drinking water and air samples, and breakdown products for chemicals like ethylbenzene, styrene, and toluene in the bodies of children living near fracking wells at levels up to 91 times as high as the average American and substantially higher than levels seen in the average adult cigarette smoker.
The chemicals found in the air and water—and inside of people's bodies—are linked to a wide range of harmful health impacts, from skin and respiratory irritation to organ damage and increased cancer risk.
But these stories are about more than a list of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. They're about a single father on disability who fears these exposures are causing his son's illness but can't afford to move; a family that did move to escape a school surrounded by well pads, but found themselves living next to a new set of wells and still being exposed; and quiet rural lifestyles once defined by idyllic farms, rolling hills, and fresh air now overwhelmed by heavy truck traffic, heavy industry, and communities at odds over whether to protest that loss or try and cash in by leasing their mineral rights. Critical Condition: “The Shale Crescent” and the Dream of an Appalachian Petrochemical Boom The experts assembled for the Ohio River Valley Institute’s inaugural forum cited stiff market headwinds, excess ethylene and polyethylene capacity, and threats to fossil fuel and plastics demand as reasons why the envisioned Appalachian buildout is unlikely to go forward.
Panelist Kathy Hipple, Professor of Finance at Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability program and a former financial analyst for the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, pointed to imposing financial hurdles faced by the fossil fuel industry, which has struggled to turn profits since the beginning of the natural gas boom.
“It is important to remember that the petrochemical industry is part of the broader oil and gas industry that has been experiencing global problems. Many of these companies have slashed their capital expenditure by fully 50%. They don’t have as much cash as they used to,” Hipple explained.
“Locally, they’re producing gas, but they haven’t yet been able to make it a profitable business. You’ve got an industry in distress looking for salvation, hoping that the petrochemical build-out in Appalachia might be that lifeline. The financials do not support that contention.”
Study: 500K people at health risk from living near gas flaring Over half a million Americans live within 3 miles of natural gas flares, making them prone to potential health issues like asthma or an elevated risk of having premature babies, according to new research. Lara Cushing, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and paper co-author, said there's "growing evidence linking residences near unconventional oil and gas operations with negative health impacts" for nearby residents. "This includes our recent finding that living within about three miles of flaring is associated with increased risk of preterm birth [for pregnant women]," Cushing said in a statement yesterday. That earlier research reported that women with a high degree of exposure to flaring at oil and gas sites had a 50% greater risk for preterm birth than for women living farther away.
A Pennsylvania county went from bust to boom times with natural gas. Now, it's nearly broke. Greene County is going broke. Nearly 10 years and more than 1,000 natural gas wells later, the county appears to be no better off financially than where it started, having spent through $37.2 million in impact fees without setting aside money to plan for the day the work would inevitably slow. Will Pennsylvania shrug off new fracking horror stories? Whatever else happens in 2021, we should remember this as the year that the great political debate over fracking for oil and natural gas ended — at least here in the critical state of Pennsylvania. On one hand, there’s mounting evidence that the frenzy for unconventional gas drilling under the Marcellus Shale has failed to produce any lasting job boom or the tax revenue that its backers promised. On the other hand, scientists have more proof that fracking has polluted the air and water of nearby residents, as worries about the health impacts are spiking.
Check out CORR's website at www.concernedohioriverresidents.org for updates, analyses, and events. Social: Facebook and Twitter Email: email@example.com Phone: (740) 738-3024 Address: Concerned Ohio River Residents P.O. Box 135 Bridgeport, OH 43912