LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS
“Every elected official in the state of Ohio from the Governor down to the local level whether it’s a township trustee or even a city council person… we all took the same oath. We all rose our hand and we swore to protect the health, safety and welfare of people that we were elected to serve. That isn’t just writing on a piece of paper. That needs to be taken seriously.”
~Plain Township Trustee Lou Giavasis
The Ohio General Assembly just passed a law allowing drilling in State Parks and on other State-owned lands. While this was a significant decision, it may or may not affect the community you serve as a local elected official.
What WILL hit very close to home, directly impacting citizens in your jurisdiction, is any instance of the industrial-scale drilling in the shale formations being pursued on private properties by energy companies across Ohio.
These geologic layers hold natural gas and oil that energy companies want to extract and sell. In Ohio, they include the Marcellus layer, which covers roughly the eastern ½ of the state, and the Utica formation, a newly discovered source under almost all of Ohio.
The use of high volume hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) with horizontal drilling of the deep shale formations presents significant risk to public health, safety, economy, environment, and self-determination of your constituency. As the use of this relatively new technology has increased nationally, the number of documented spills, blowouts, leaking wells, and other accidents are adding up.
Other kinds of problems abound:
- Drilling companies are bringing in out-of-state transient workers who are causing safety and legal concerns in local communities.
- Economic boom and bust cycles are spurred by the industry as drilling moves from one community to the next, the long-term consequences of which far outweigh the short-term benefits to your local economy.
- The typical well pad requires over 13,000 round trips of heavy semis over local roads, causing traffic congestion, and costing taxpayer money on repair and maintenance.
- In May, a peer-reviewed study was released from duke university documenting the connection between fracking and drinking water contamination. As local officials, you are responsible for public health and safety. How will the citizens of your town survive if your drinking water source is permanently contaminated? Pa, for example, allows partially treated fracking wastewater to be released into waterways that are the source of drinking water for hundreds of communities. This water has been found to contain radiation and carcinogenic materials, and is therefore permanently contaminated – not fit for consumption without grave health consequences.
Energy companies are actively securing thousands and thousands of leases to drill in the Marcellus shale layer of Ohio. Permits to frack in the Marcellus region are being approved by ODNR and wells have begun to be drilled. The industry is also doing exploration in the Utica shale, and is starting to procure some leases to drill in that geologic layer as well.
Since your Elected role includes protecting the community you serve, we want to provide you with strategies for doing just that. Fracking has threatened communities in PA, NY, WV, NJ & MD, and in all of those states, local communities are passing fracking bans and moratoria. Even states are taking action – NY has established a moratorium on fracking, and NJ is considering a ban (see the local & state bans & moratoria list).
You won’t be alone if you take this step. Canton, North Canton, Plain Township, Garretsville, and Yellow Springs are all taking local action against fracking and other Ohio elected officials have introduced or are working on legislation in their own communities.
Here are 4 ideas for how you can act now to protect your community:
- Pass an ordinance to ban fracking in your local community. Regulation cannot protect our communities from fracking and large cities like Pittsburgh have passed bans. For more information, contact Ben Price at Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.celdf.org.
- Pass a non-legally binding resolution that says "no" to fracking in your community, if your local government doesn't have home rule to pass a ban, or you have other reason not to pass a ban.
- Join with other local governments across Ohio to challenge the state's 2004 revocation of your right to use zoning to determine where drilling can & can't happen in your community (see enclosed “state says your community has no say on drilling,” and for more information, consult with NEOGAP via website www.neogap.org).
- Pass a resolution calling on the state legislature to enact a statewide moratorium.
The time to act is now. As more and more leases are signed, permits are issued by ODNR, and wells are drilled and fracked, Ohio will start to see the same kinds of problems that have led communities in other states to take measures to protect themselves. You can proactively prevent your community from ending up in the news due to a spill, fire, explosion, or drinking water contamination. Take action now!
As plain twp. Trustee Lou Giavasis recently said: “Every elected official in the state of Ohio from the governor down to the local level whether it’s a township trustee or even a city council person… we all took the same oath. We all rose our hand and we swore to protect the health, safety and welfare of people that we were elected to serve. That isn’t just writing on a piece of paper. That needs to be taken seriously.”