Concerned Residents Occupy ODNR Demanding Injection Well Moratorium

After the Ohio Department of Natural Resources lifted a ban on new injection wells, Citizens from across Ohio have gathered their Columbus headqarter to DEMAND a ban on injection wells until brine water is tested, public records are made available in a timely manner to citizens, and there are public hearings with community members directly impacted by drilling and injection of fracking waste-water.

**Security guards at the site have SHUT THE GATES to prevent citizens from entering the public complex of ODNR.  Their authority to deny citizens access to public buildings and grounds during business hours has not been explained.

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March 14, 2012
CONTACT: Ben Shapiro, Annie Lukins, (216) 586-4890;

Concerned Residents Occupy ODNR Demanding Injection Well Moratorium

Who watches the watchers?

Columbus, OH – After the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced they would lift a voluntary suspension on construction of new injection wells in Ohio for toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, outraged residents from Northeast Ohio have staged a sit-in at their office demanding an immediate moratorium upon underground injection of fracking wastewater, a meeting between key ODNR officials and directly impacted community members, mandatory testing of wastewater, and to provide a written public records policy in response to a history of withholding public documents.

“If Ohio’s regulations are as protective as the ODNR claims, why are drilling companies in surrounding states paying additional transportation and brine hauling fees to bring it all the way to Ohio?” said John Williams, a 55-year-old resident of Youngstown.  “We are here today to send a message to the gas industry and our so-called regulators that we are not expendable and we will not be sold out!”

Williams, along with Matthew Wengerd, a 21-year-old resident of Warren, and Jonathan Sidney, a 22-year-old resident of Cleveland, are seated in the ODNR Division of Mineral Resources – the office responsible for permitting hydraulic fracturing and injection wells – with a banner reading “BAN TOXIC INJECTION WELLS NOW.”  They are refusing to leave the ODNR until the regulatory agency agrees to test wastewater, establish a written records policy that ensures residents access to public documents relevant to their communities, and hold a meeting to answer questions from communities directly impacted by drilling.

Fracking has polluted drinking water supplies in communities all across the country. ProPublica has identified more than 1,000 cases of water contamination near drilling sites documented by courts, states, and local governments.[1]  The process requires hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water that is combined with nearly 700 chemicals, many of them known human carcinogens.  There are currently over 190 injection wells in this state, with plans pending to construct more.  The ODNR recently concluded that a series of 12 earthquakes in the Youngstown area were likely caused by injection wells.[2]

To date the ODNR has ignored multiple Ohio residents’ requests to test toxic injection materials, and has no written policy guaranteeing that Ohioans can access public records relevant to the health and safety of their communities.  They frequently refuse to provide these records upon request.

“The ODNR is supposed to protect the health and safety of Ohio residents, but when they refuse to test fracking fluid, won’t grant records requests in a reasonable amount of time, and don’t allow directly affected communities to speak at hearings, are they really working for us?  Banning injection wells until these questions are answered is the only option to protect our safe drinking water” said Wengerd.

Demands to ODNR

Deliver to: Director James Zehringer, Deputy Director Andy Ware, Chief Rick Simmers, Deputy Chief Tom Tugend, and Geologist Tom Tomastik

1) We demand that ODNR initiate a statewide program of testing for injection material samples from every company that injects brine into Ohio injection wells and that these results be immediately released.  Chief Simmers has the authority to order this testing under Section 1509.06 of the Ohio Revised Code, and nevertheless has ignored repeated requests to test injection materials.  ODNR must begin this testing program and release initial results within one week.

2) We demand that ODNR hold a public meeting to address resident concerns regarding injection wells presented in the attached document.  We demand written responses to the attached questions prior to the beginning of this meeting, and an open forum for expression of resident concerns at the meeting.  Director James Zehringer, Deputy Director Andy Ware, Chief Rick Simmers, Deputy Chief Tom Tugend, and Geologist Tom Tomastik must all be present at this meeting.  This meeting must take place within one week.

3) We demand that ODNR publish a written records request policy that guarantees resident access to public records within five business days.  All relevant records must be made available prior to any public notice.  This policy must be published within one week.

[1] Lutsgarten, Abraham. “Buried secrets: Is natural gas drilling endangering U.S. water supplies?” ProPublica. November 13, 2008. As cited by Food and Water Watch.


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