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by danps

Shalersville speaks out against fracking

8:09 am in Uncategorized by danps

On Tuesday a group of Shalersville, Ohio residents attended a meeting of its trustees to voice their objections to fracking. Video of all the statements can be seen at the Shalersville No Fracking web site. There was a three minute speaking limit so the clips are short. (If you cannot watch video where you are, this is a rough transcript of my own remarks.) Here is just one of them, and note how the resident talks about her opposition to fracking from both a technical and visceral perspective. There are logistical, technological and environmental reasons to not want a fracking operation in your town, but there are emotional ones too:

Those speaking out at the meeting were prepared. In general people were not speaking off the cuff, but working from a prepared statement or note cards. We did our homework on this.

One of the recurring themes environmental activists have been hearing at the local level is that fracking is a state-level issue and that municipalities have limited ability to address it. That has been true in Portage county generally, and it was the case in Shalersville on Tuesday night. At the start of the meeting, one of the trustees announced that the speakers were strictly there for public comment and that no questions would be permitted.

The trustee then stated that they were essentially powerless to do anything because the state of Ohio had eliminated most mechanisms of local control (which incidentally is in defiance of the state constitution’s guarantee of home rule – more on that here). Fortunately, one well prepared resident addressed that issue head on in her response. Namely, at times in our history we have had immoral laws – ones that permitted slavery and banned universal suffrage, to name just two.

Simply declaring that the law must be obeyed under all circumstances is not persuasive. It’s fair to ask first if the law is right and just. And if a great many people are persuaded it is not, that is an issue that ought to be addressed instead of swept aside. Read the rest of this entry →

by danps

Home rule goes up against the fracking industry – and the political system

3:50 am in Uncategorized by danps

The Beauty of Fracking (image: SS&SS/flickr)

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

The fight against fracking in Ohio comes at a time when the state is approving new wells at a rapid pace. Local activists are organizing in an environment where the ground is constantly shifting under their feet – sometimes literally.

Anti-fracking activism has been influenced by developments both inside the state and beyond. At a recent public anti-fracking meeting a representative from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) described the experience of activists in western Pennsylvania several years ago.

Residents there began seeing lots of drilling sites, processing plants and other fracking infrastructure pop up. Neighborhood opposition responded through the regulatory process. Drillers needed permits, so locals educated themselves on permit writing. They enjoyed some early victories as improperly written permits were thrown out.

The wins were only temporary though. Drillers came back weeks or months later with rewritten permits that fixed the problems in the earlier ones. The new permits passed regulatory muster and the frackers moved in. At one point counsel for the companies jokingly thanked a CELDF representative for its help in putting together a bulletproof permit-writing process. As you might imagine, this was not the intended outcome.

The regulatory process may not be a suitable one for anti-fracking activists for other reasons as well. For one, regulations are not ultimately about protecting citizens; they are about legalizing harm. Regulation on, say, arsenic in drinking water is not based on the maximum amount that humans may safely consume, but on the maximum amount the industry can get legislators to allow. If they allow an amount that is unhealthy for humans or animals, those who suffer as a result have no legal recourse. The harm was permitted.

If you do not want the fracking to occur at all – if you think it is too unregulated, too opaque, and generally too hazardous – then fighting over regulation is a sucker’s game. You are not fighting over whether or not your community will expose itself to the tender mercies of the oil and gas industry, but over how much damage the industry will be allowed to do to it; and since the oil and gas industry is flooding the statehouse with lobbyists how do you think that fight will go?

Read the rest of this entry →