The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) held a press conference Tuesday with makers of the documentary Triple Divide as a “cautionary tale” for oil and gas fracking in Ohio. OEC said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has yet to begin monitoring of the industry under 2012 legislation that could address at least part of the filmmakers concerns over water contamination
OEC’s director of water policy and environmental health, Melanie Houston, hosted a webinar and answer session with investigative journalists Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman of Public Herald, who say Pennsylvania’s history with horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” of Marcellus shale shows “Americans suffering in the wake of shale oil and gas development.” They offer those experiences as a warning to Ohio.
Pribanic and Troutman, both originally from northern Ohio, say the state still has a chance to learn from its neighbor. “Ohio is really in the infancy stage in shale gas development, compared to Pennsylvania,” said Troutman.
Triple Divide is named after a unique continental transition zone and network of rivers in northwestern Pennsylvania where its fracking industry is concentrated. The film documents what they claim are various regulatory anomalies in the state, including an alleged failure by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to compare certain pre- and post-drilling water tests that could have exposed the effects of fracking on potable water.
“When tests are dismissed, it changes the water quality history of an area, saying a pre-existing condition, not fracking, caused the water contamination,” they said.
In one case, Chesapeake Energy Corp. ignored a pre-drill test with the complicity of DEP, said Pribanic.
In another, the “blow-out” of a fracking well into nearby waterways produced a 10-fold increase in methane, sodium and other contaminants. Guardian Exploration was also found to have buried fracking waste not approved by DEP, Pribanic said.
In fact, he said, only half of all fracking waste is ever extracted from shale formations, proliferating the number of disposal wells.
In Pennsylvania, pre-drill testing is technically required, post-drill testing only occurs in response to complaints, and even then is not well monitored by authorities, Pribanic said. In Ohio, Houston said Gov. John Kasich’s energy legislation in Mid-Biennium Review measure 129-SB315 (Jones) included a provision for pre-drill water testing, but no requirement for post-drill testing.
“While that is a step forward, we are nowhere near where we need to be in the regulation of this industry,” Houston said, noting it’s still
not clear who will monitor testing. “We don’t have rules in place yet. My understanding so far is that Ohio EPA is not involved.”
Troutman and Pribanic were asked whether they believe there is any way to perform horizontal hydraulic fracking without endangering nearby inhabitants.
“According to the information that we found, they have a lot of complaints when it comes to wells, they have a lot of spills, and they have a lot of failures,” Pribanic said. “I can’t say that hydraulic fracturing at this point is being conducted in a safe way.”
Troutman questioned the notion of safety, saying hydraulic fracking uses such intense pressure that it moves substructures underground. “Any statement like that would be very risky.”
They said their documentary is different from “hearsay” exposes on horizontal fracking.
“We’re not giving you our views in the film. We’re not giving you our bias. We are giving you the evidence,” said Pribanic.
OEC issued a follow-up statement following the press conference. “Through thorough investigative journalism, Triple Divide presents a compelling case that the gas land communities of Ohio may be in for more than clogged roads and a temporary surge in retail dollars from itinerant oil and gas workers. They may be in for a real rude awakening,” said Houston.
She provided the following screening dates for Triple Divide in Ohio: Sept. 10, 7 pm, Columbus – Gateway Film Center Sept. 12, 6 pm, Mansfield – Relax, It’s Just Coffee Sept. 19, 7 pm, Granville – Denison University
Sept. 20, 7 pm, Springfield – Senior & Community Center Sept. 21, 7 pm, Rocky River – West Shore UU Church Sept. 22, 6 pm, Youngstown – B&O Banquet Hall Sept. 23, 6 pm, Salem – The Memorial Building
Sept. 24, 7 pm, Bowling Green – Grounds for Thought Sept. 25, 5:50 pm, Toledo – Maumee Branch Library Sept. 27, 7 pm, Sandusky – Harlequins Community Theatre
More information on Public Herald is available at http://www.publicherald.org Also, see:
Film Festival Gags Fracking Documentary as Radiation is Discovered in Local Waterway http://www.publicherald.org/archives/18043/opinion/
SOURCE: Ohio Environmental Press Conference, September 3, 2013