Last Tuesday a few dozen activists got in their cars and drove to the Ohio Statehouse to collaborate in an organized session scolding Ohio’s use of fossil fuels. The Fresh Water Accountability Project (FWAP) organized a Public Health & Liability Conference: Fracking and Ohio’s Future. The event was open to the public, free to attend, with the goal educating Ohio’s legislators and regulators to learn the negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
In a press release from FWAP it seems as if they’re deeming the conference as a flop:
The conference hoped to provide the information and education regulators and legislators need from sources not connected to the oil and gas industry. Organizers invited regulators from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ONDR), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Health, the Kasich Administration and all Ohio legislators. The conference was organized in the Statehouse Atrium with accessibility for regulators and legislators in mind, but few managed to make an appearance to learn from the experts.
Holding the event in an opportune place to draw legislator attendance was not able to bring in the presence the group was looking for. Or maybe it was because the ODNR regulates the industry and did not feel the need to hear from these so called “experts” whose only affiliation with the industry is in its attempts to bring it down.
The University of Cincinnati had two speakers, Erin Haynes and James O’Reilly, presenting on various topics at the event. Erin Haynes was slated to present on oil and gas development, views from environmental public health perspective. Much of presentation time was passed on for a collaborator from the University of Cincinnati to present new findings from preliminary results from a new pilot study examining the quality of life amid unconventional oil and gas extraction in eastern Ohio. The results presented looked to be more along the lines of a survey results than a scientific study, where interviews were conducted with 34 residents in Guernsey and Noble County.
It was interesting to see these two speakers from the University of Cincinnati present at the forum, but the researcher who conducted a three-year study testing water contamination from hydraulic fracturing was not on the speaking roster. Dr. Amy Townsend-Small analyzed groundwater before the onset of fracing, during, and after fracing completion, concluding that hydraulic fracturing does not have any links to contaminating water. She likely would have been asked to speak if the results were negative, just like she said while presenting them at a public meeting in Carroll County, “I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracing is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”
The final speaker of the day was Jensen Silvis, an attorney for the FWAP (also in a press release from FWAP):
“There are too many regulatory loopholes at the federal and state levels to allow fracking to degrade public health and the environment. We need to educate ourselves and our representatives regarding the facts and close the legal gaps allowing the industry to proceed and pollute at public harm and expense.”
After flying through his presentation on the numerous regulatory loopholes he found through his research, Silvis said:
“I wish I knew of more. I always tell people, I’m not a scientist either. So I can look at the law. I’m brand new at doing the legal stuff too. But I need like another me as a scientist, to try to help me decipher all these different numbers and all this. If you know anybody, let me know.”
This concluded the pane of experts the FWAP organized for its public health and liability, fracing and Ohio’s future discussion.