This is a lightly modified copy of the statement I presented on Tuesday’s meeting of township trustees. Several cuts were made right before the meeting to keep it under the three minute time limit, and a local business’ name has been removed because I did not speak to them about including their name in connection with this controversial issue.
If you drive by the well and pump shop a couple miles north of here on 44 you’ll see a new sign. It says “test water before fracking.” It’s right out front. You can’t miss it.
Why is it there? Because the Ohio EPA recommends that people have their water tested before fracking begins in case it gets contaminated after. These out-of-state operators breeze into town, set up shop and start pumping God knows what into the ground. WE certainly doesn’t know what’s in it. The industry doesn’t have to disclose the chemical composition of fracking fluid. They say it’s a proprietary formula and they’ve rigged the game with the state so there’s no transparency.
These companies are already notorious for ruining the water in the communities they move in on, and that is why businesses are encouraging everyone to get their water tested. Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the biggest fine ever to an oil and gas company in Pennsylvania history. Chesapeake Energy’s fracking operation contaminated water supplies for 16 families in Bradford County and they were fined $1.1 million for it.
They haven’t cleaned up their act since then either. In February they were fined another half million for poisoning a local creek. These companies don’t really know what they are doing, and no one knows the long term effects. Horizontal fracking is a new technology; Ohio’s very first permit for Utica Shale fracking was only issued in March of last year. And the industry has put all its effort into finding ways to extract natural gas, and almost none into safety or environmental protection.
So when some distant company - Chesapeake Energy is one of the major players here and it is headquartered in Oklahoma - when one of these companies wants to set up shop, the burden is on local citizens to establish the quality of their water beforehand. It’s a fracking tax on each and every resident who wants some insurance against a big driller poisoning their water.
And it doesn’t come cheap. I got an estimate from the well and pump shop, and it’s $360 for what amounts to a composite test. But even that might not be enough. There are three different levels of testing, and testers can’t guarantee their work will stand up to a court challenge by a bunch of expensive suits.
In addition, regulation of this industry is a joke. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has admitted that there is no transparency into what these companies are doing, that the current fines are inadequate and that citizens have no easy recourse when problems inevitably occur.
We saw what happened last year in the Gulf of Mexico when new drilling technology outpaces safety and regulation. I don’t want fracking to have its own Deepwater Horizon disaster in our backyard.
Even if that worst case scenario doesn’t happen, Shalersville will not benefit from fracking. These companies exist to enrich their executives and shareholders, not to share their spoils with the communities they operate in. The best case scenario for residents of Shalersville is that we each spend several hundred dollars out of pocket to get our wells tested and don’t end up with our property values destroyed.
Keep in mind that having your water tested is not the same as insuring its quality. The Ohio Revised Code states that “An owner shall replace the water supply” if it gets poisoned, but that only happens after you figure it out. In other words, after your household has already been drinking contaminated water.
If history is any guide, they’ll just pay some fines, write it off, and leave it to the rest of us to deal with the mess. On Wall Street they call that privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. Here’s the thing, though: They might see these fines as the cost of doing business, but my family is not a business. There’s no going back to square one. Square one right now is that I can use my plumbing; supplying us with bottled water because we can’t use our faucets doesn’t make everything just fine. Square one right now is that my kids are healthy; money will not remove toxins from their systems.
These big companies have no stake in the long term health of Shalersville’s environment, or in keeping Shalersville a great place to live. WE do. WE will have to live here long after they’ve pulled up the stakes and moved on to their next target. I am not interested in gambling on my community’s future, and I’m sure as hell not interested in gambling on my family’s health. Fracking is a raw deal for Shalersville and I urge you to not allow it here.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.