June 8th, 2012 - About 100 residents of Medina and Lorain counties showed up at a rally in Litchfield last week to hear a presentation by a pair of veterans in the campaign against high volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing.
The speakers were Joe Logan, director of agricultural programming at the Ohio Environmental Council and Doug Shields, the former Pittsburgh City Councilman who led an effort that resulted in a rare ban on fracking that so far has withstood legal challenges.
The event was held at the Litchfield Assembly of God Church and planned by a loosely organized group of citizens from Lorain and Medina counties who claimed no association with organized protest groups.
The focus of discussion were health and environmental threats posed by energy companies planning to drill into shale formations under Ohio to release rich deposits of oil and natural gas trapped there. Logan told the audience the drilling techniques now being used by energy companies is much different than used in previous waves of oil exploration in Ohio.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into shale deposits to create cracks and fissures that allow the gas to be released. The process has been used in vertical wells for decades.
New techniques allow for horizontal drilling along shale layers and a much more intensive fracking process. Arnold said the slick water in the description of the process refers to the cocktail of chemicals injected into the well to help the sand and water move through the drill hole and shale more freely.
High volume refers to the five million gallons of water injected into each well which is at least 70 times more water than was used in older, vertical wells. Arnold said the pressure under which the water and sand are injected into the shale is also much greater than used in vertical drilling rigs because drillers now employ not one compressor, but several of them used in tandem to create much greater pressure with which to fracture the shale deposits.
Arnold, a fifth-generation dairy farmer, said the process creates many reasons for concern. Among them are the sources of the high volumes of water used in the process, gas leaching into sources of drinking water from faults in the rock layers that separate the shale from underground aquifers and air and water pollution from the well head where byproducts of the process can escape.
Defenders of the process say fracking has been taking place for nearly 100 years and never has it been proven that the process contaminated nearby well water. However, many have challenged that notion, including Granger Township resident Mark Mangnum who claims his well water was ruined by an oil well drilled nearby but has yet to prove it in court.
Arnold also cited a report by Cornell University Professor Anthony Ingraffia who expresses concern about the cement casings around well bores intended to create a barrier against leakage. Ingraffia claims one quarter of the cement casings around fracking wells fail immediately and 75 percent of those casings will fail eventually.
Shields said the oil and gas industry has received extraordinary protection from regulation by state and federal governments but his ban instituted in Pittsburgh is proof that people still can assert some control over the process.
“We have rights. They’re inalienable,” Shields told the audience. “Think about that and ask yourself what you are going to do about it.”
According to Shields, the oil and gas reserves in the Utica and Marcellus shale deposits lie underneath five states and are the second biggest natural gas discovery in the world.
“Life as you know it is going to change,” said Shields. “If you don’t believe it, ask the people who live in lower Louisiana, or ask the people in Saudi Arabia, for that matter.”
Shields cautioned, however, that the oil and gas industry is notoriously volatile and profits rise and fall precipitously.
He also said economics should not be the final reason for encouraging the industry.
“Money can’t be the main policy driver,” he said. “It has to be about what’s right, and our individual rights to clean air and water.”
Shields criticized new drilling regulations adopted by the state of Ohio which give drillers the right to keep secret the chemicals they use in fracking and place a gag order on medical personnel who enquire about the chemicals to treat patients exposed to them.
“I’ve spent more than 20 years in public office and that gag order is the first example I’ve ever seen of government putting business interests ahead of the health and welfare of the people,” Shields said.
By GLENN WOJCIAK
The Post staff writer
Replicated only for posterity. All credit goes to Glenn Wojciak and The Post. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Original article found @http://thepostnewspapers.com/fracking-rally–EM-6-9–wojciak–clone