Gathering aims to curb fracking

NELSON – Anti-fracking activists gathered at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park for three days of celebration, education, solidarity and relaxation during an “International Gathering.”

“Our goal over this weekend is to provide information on what fracking is,” John D. Williams of McDonald said. “We are talking about its possible impact on communities and showing those who want to organize in their communities ways they can do it.

“We also plan to relax and learn,” he said.

Saturday’s gathering attracted approximately 500 people from as far away as California, New York and Canada to discuss concerns about the environmental impact of the drilling of natural gas and injection wells.

Local activists are celebrating because Niles City Council last week passed a Community Bill of Rights, which prevents hydraulic drilling within city.

“Niles is an example of a city council that places the health and safety of the citizens over corporate profits,” Williams said.

Activists in Youngstown were able to get enough signatures on petitions to get an anti-drilling amendment on the November ballot after its City Council failed to pass a similar Community Bill of Rights.

Jackson Kusiak of Oberlin became interested in natural gas drilling while at a protest at the college campus.

“Water is life,” Kusiak said. “I don’t believe that some people should have to sacrifice just because the gas industry needs to use so much water to drill gas wells and will leave toxic residue.”

Kusiak’s goal is to empower communities to stand up and defend themselves against corporate interests.

Nick Teti of Coshocton said he became active after wells were placed near the Tuscarawas River. Teti and his family are concerned that any leak from the wells would contaminate local water supplies.

“I watched the documentary ‘Gasland,’ and as I listened to the natural gas supporters, what they talked about went against the scientific evidence,” Teti said. “The more I learned, the more I realized what we were being told was not true.”

Although he has a well near his home, Teti said he has a responsibility to fight against the spread of more wells in his community.

Pro-fracking groups point out that the process is not new and has been ongoing for decades with hardly an issue. At an anti-fracking rally last month in Warren, a pro-drilling group of mostly union members, tradesmen, some local politicians and members of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber gathered across the street with signs touting jobs.

The group argued that the oil and gas industries are helping bring middle income jobs back to a region devastated when the steel industry went into a steep decline.

A just-released report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services states that about 1,300 workers last year found employment in Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus Shale natural gas industry, bringing the number of workers filling Ohio shale drilling-related jobs to 178,280 in fourth quarter of 2012. Experts say those numbers will grow.

The people gathered Saturday disagreed.

Susie Beiersdorfer of Frack Free Mahoning described the importance of the three-day event was to bring together people who may have known one another only through emails and facebook messaging.

“It is good to meet people face to face,” Beiersdorfer said. “We are able to see and discuss what people in other communities are doing and learn from them.”

Although saying Ohio should not be accepting wastewater from injection wells, Beiersdorfer said she recognizes it will be a tough reverse the state’s current support of the oil and gas industry.

“We’re going to have to make sure people know how dangerous it is and the limited regulations in the state,” she said.

Raymond Beiersdorfer, an associate professor of geology at Youngstown State University, said supporters of the gas industry often talks about energy independence and the number of jobs that will be created with increased hydraulic fracturing.

“It is not true,” he said. “The number of new jobs for local residents have been relatively low.”

Beiersdorfer said industry supporters have the money and air time to promote their agendas.

He also talked about a recent scientific paper on the 2011 earthquakes in Youngstown suggest there were more than the reported seven.

“According to this paper, there may have been more than 90 other shakes of less than 1.8 magnitude,” he said.

Lal Chaudhari, a retired chemist out of South Bend, Ind., said the people in the industry must work to keep the proper maintenance of the equipment and the well sites.

Diana Shaheen of Cornersburg felt the 2011 earthquakes.

“I’m totally against fracking,” she said. “As I began to study it more, I became more active in working to stop it from happening. I am worried about the toxins in the waste water could get into our aquifers and our water supplies.”