Residents of Southeastern Ohio need to be aware of a recent announcement made by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on the hazards of the oil and gas industry. He reported that a two-year investigation by the Grand Jury uncovered the failure to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of the fracking industry. Testimonies were given to the jury from residents living near oil and gas drilling sites. They shared their concerns over poor air quality leading to negative health impacts. Reports were given of water contamination which resulted in breathing problems when showering. Parents spoke about their children having nose bleeds and other ailments. Livestock had become sick, infertile and died, according to testimony given by farmers living near fracking operations.
Pennsylvania has more stringent regulations of the oil and gas industry than Ohio. In fact, 1,500 fracking wells had been drilled in Ohio before a single regulation had even been written. Ohio is still lacking in the necessary oversight of the fracking industry, with critical legislation yet to be written. As an informed and concerned resident of Belmont County, I am pleading with fellow Ohioans to stand with me and demand that Ohio Attorney General David Yost and Governor Mike DeWine halt any further permitting for the oil and gas industry until a public health and environmental impact study is conducted in Ohio on the risks of fracking.
Just as in Pennsylvania, the State of Ohio is already failing to protect communities from air and water pollution from fracking, and now the Ohio EPA has granted permits for, and is promoting cracking to make plastic, which will pose additional threats to our health due to air and water pollution. Ohio must put the health and safety of the people and our environment above corporate interests and profits.
I have personally experienced the devastating effects of fracking. Belmont County is the most heavily fracked county in the state, with over 675 wells permitted and 500 producing. Alarmingly, 78 of those wells are located within a five-mile radius of my home. There are four well sites, one within a mile and the remaining three within a mile and a half, that have been in significant violation since 2016. Investigations revealed that no enforcement action had been taken by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), or remediation of any kind been made by Gulfport, the fracking company in violation. There are a total of 16 Gulfport well pads in our area that have been in violation since 2016. My family and my neighbors have experienced negative health impacts from fracking wells and other infrastructure sites located nearby including, pipelines, compressor and transfer stations.
Take a look at St. James Parish in Louisiana, now called Cancer Alley, due to the high cancer rates of those living in communities surrounded by the petrochemical industry. We must ask the question, “Is this the kind of industry we want in our backyards?” Let us also demand that an impact study be conducted on the risks associated with the petrochemical industry that is looming over the Ohio River Valley. Here in Appalachia we have lived through the boom and bust cycles of extractive industries.We deserve a better, healthier and more sustainable future than those being promoted by our state and local officials. Future generations are depending on us to create a better vision for the Ohio River Valley. Please contact Attorney General Yost at (800) 282-0515; 30 East Broad Street-13th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215. Contact Governor DeWine at: (614) 466-3555; 77 South High Street-30th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge about the risks of the petrochemical and fracking industries, and to join us in envisioning a better future for the Ohio River Valley visit Concerned Ohio River Residents website at: www.nocrackerplantov.com or call 740-738-3124.
Jill Antares Hunkler
Resident of Belmont County, the most heavily fracked area in Ohio