Drilling Down

Groups Petition U.S. EPA to Reform Ohio Waste Rules

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A coalition of Ohio environmental and community groups sent a 15-page letter Wednesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice claiming that the state’s approval process for shale drilling waste injection wells “has an overwhelmingly disparate impact on low-income Ohioans.”

The coalition claims this is “in violation of a federal directive requiring that such impacts be identified and given specific safeguards.” READ LETTER

The letter is signed by Teresa Mills from the Ohio field office of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation manager for the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club.

“This petition is about the only step left to instill some basic fairness into this miserably corrupt system,” Mills states.

Among local individuals co-signing the letter are Susie Beiersdorfer of FrackFree Mahoning Valley, Lynn Anderson of Guardians of Mill Creek Park and John Williams of We Are Not Expendable.

The letter posits that “74.9% of the 237 active injection wells in Ohio are concentrated in the state’s 32 officially recognized ‘Appalachian’ counties due to their low-income status where just 17.4% of all Ohioans live. Injection wells disposed of over 1 billion, 46 million gallons of highly toxic fracking wastes in 2014.”

The groups claim the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is a “captive regulator controlled by Ohio’s politically potent oil and gas industry and has neither the effective public input nor reliable enforcement programs that state’s with disparate impacts on low-income communities are required to have under a 1994 Executive Order signed by Bill Clinton.”

The letter asks the U.S. EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice to conduct an investigation of ODNR and U.S. EPA’s injection well programs to determine how they should be reformed to satisfy the 1994 executive order.

The signatories claim ODNR’s public participation policies, established in 1983, “comical but for the profound injustice they cause.”

The coalition points to the disclosure in February 2014 of a “communications plan prepared by ODNR to promote fracking in state parks that proposed aggressively partnering with the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists to overcome resistance from what the department scornfully called ‘eco-left pressure groups,’ which included many of the nation’s most respected environmental groups and even two state legislators.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.