Appalachian Basin

Ban-Fracking Activist Group Pushes Community Right to Know Misinformation Campaign

So often ban fracking activist groups who claim they simply want transparency in government or regulatory reform of the oil and gas industry, do not immediately disclose that their end game is to completely stop all activities related to hydraulic fracturing.

This week we saw an excellent example of these bait-and-switch tactics from the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), who sent emails out to supporters asking them to contact Ohio state lawmakers to remove what they call a “dangerous provision in the Ohio budget bill.” They claim that if supporters do not act, “fracking companies will get a special exemption from reporting their chemicals to local firefighters and emergency responders.” The email includes a “learn more” hyperlink, where the OEC exposes its “Act on Fracking” campaign agenda and the fact that they’ve already called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Of course, OEC’s claims about the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), and how oil and gas companies report chemicals, are entirely wrong.

What is the EPCRA? In 1986 Congress instated this act, which established federal, state, and local governments, tribes, and industry regulations regarding emergency planning and “community right-to-know” reporting of chemicals. Sections 311 and 312 of EPCRA require that information be available to state and local officials and local fire departments if needed. In Ohio, that information is captured electronically and housed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

In the OEC’s call to action email, they claim that EPCRA provisions “could prevent first responders from taking necessary steps to protect citizens in the event of a fracking fire or spill!” Here’s what the language actually says (emphasis added):

Sec. 1509.231. (A) A person that is regulated under this chapter and rules adopted under it and that is required to submit information under the “Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986,” 100 Stat. 1728, 42 U.S.C. 11022, and

regulations adopted under it shall submit the information to the chief of the division of oil and gas resources management on or before the first day of March of each calendar year. The person shall submit the information in accordance with rules adopted under division (B) of this section.

(B) The chief, in consultation with the emergency response commission created in section 3750.02 of the Revised Code, shall adopt rules in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code that specify the information that shall be included in an electronic database that the chief shall create and host. The information shall be information that the chief considers to be appropriate for the purpose of responding to emergency situations

that pose a threat to public health or safety or the environment. The rules shall require that the information be consistent with the information that a person that is regulated under this chapter is required to submit under the “Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986,” 100 Stat. 1728, 42 U.S.C. 11022, and

regulations adopted under it.

In addition, the rules shall do all of the following:

(1) Specify whether and to what extent the database and the information that it contains will be made accessible to the public;

(2) Ensure that the information submitted for the database will be made immediately available to the emergency response commission, the local emergency planning committee of the emergency planning district in which a facility is located, and the fire department having jurisdiction over a facility;

(3) Ensure that the information submitted for the database includes the information required to be reported under section 3750.08 of the Revised Code and rules adopted under section 3750.02 of the Revised Code.

(C) As used in this section, “emergency planning district,” “facility,” and “fire department” have the same meanings as in section 3750.01 of the Revised Code.

In other words, the proposed legislation makes it abundantly clear that the state must comply with federal statute, while ensuring that emergency responders have the information they need in a timely manner.

The OEC instead is encouraging supporters to take us back to the stone ages with paper reporting requirements, which, by the way, are not very “environmental.” The group also wants to completely cut ODNR out of the process, yet the federal U.S. EPA says that Ohio has the right to implement federal statute as they see fit.

But make no mistake, this call to action by the OEC has nothing to do with EPCRA or the way the oil and gas industry reports chemicals. The motive is to ban fracking…period. That’s quite evident from the video OEC posted along with its call to action, which is riddled with ridiculous claims. Among other things, the video states:

OEC Claim: “Fracking wastes and contaminates an obscene amount of water.”

Fact: The OEC claims that the oil and gas industry uses 5 to 10 million of gallons of water for one hydraulic fracturing cycle. That is an inflated number. A hydraulic fracturing job requires about 4 million gallons of water spread out over several days, and by comparison most golf courses require more water than 4 million gallons to keep a golf course green. EID takes a closer look at water consumption in an infographic found here.

OEC Claim: “Earthquakes…in Ohio? Not Natural.”

Fact: Interesting. So apparently the earthquake that happened June 18, 1875 in western Ohio was a fabrication as well as the series of felt earthquakes in southeastern Ohio in 1926. Hydraulic fracturing began in 1951, over 75 years after the felt earthquake in western Ohio and 25 years after the seismic activity in southeastern Ohio. Induced seismicity, as it related to oil and natural gas development is extremely rare and uncommon, and in Ohio, regulatory changes have been, and continue to be updated out of an abundance of caution. However, to make the claim that naturally occurring earthquakes is not possible, is simply not factual.

OEC Claim: “The EPA is not privy to the exact identify of all these chemicals”

Fact: This claim completely discredits the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (ECPRA), which was enacted specifically for this purpose, as stated above. To best comply with federal law, Ohio uses an online system, which has been in place since 2001 and has been supported by the Ohio First Chief’s Association to help maintain records and provide quality, timely information to first responders

The bottom line is that Ohio has the “right to know” these groups are working to derail the $28 billion of investment made by the oil and gas industry, largely in Appalachian Counties, and rob the people who live there of jobs and economic prosperity.

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