COLUMBUS, Ohio - Protesting plans for massive use of "fracking" to extract natural gas from Ohio shale beds, 70 environmental activists rallied outside the Ohio State University Student Union, where Republican Gov. John Kasich held an energy summit last Wednesday.
At the summit Kasich promoted plans for extensive use of the controversial new process in which high volumes of chemicals, water and sand are forced under extremely high pressure into horizontally drilled holes to fracture shale beds and extract embedded oil and gas.
The protesters presented State Senator Mike Skindell with 2,000 signed postcards calling for a moratorium on fracking in the Marcellus and Utica shale beds underlying most of the state until results of a federal EPA study on water safety are released next year.
Earlier this month, Skindell introduced SB 213, a bill calling for the moratorium and he urged pressure on state legislators to support the measure.
Oil and gas companies are salivating at the unprecedented profits to be made.
"The size of the economic prize is about $500 billion," Aubrey McClendon, chairman and CEO of Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma, told the Columbus Dispatch. His company has already spent $2 billion to lease 1.25 million acres in Ohio.
"This will be the biggest thing in the state of Ohio since maybe the plow," he said. "This will be truly, truly extraordinary."
But at the rally Warren Taylor, owner of Snowville Creamery in Meigs County, the seat of strip mining in Ohio, voiced concerns that fracking waste could threaten the water supply needed for his cows.
Michele Aini of Broadview Heights and mother of a 5 year old, expressed alarm that there was little she could do about the influx of gas wells into her residential neighborhood. A law passed in 2004 took zoning control over oil and gas drilling from local communities and gave it to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Gas and oil wells now can be drilled anywhere as long as there is a 20 acre minimum space and can be as close as 150 feet from a home, school or playground.
Tish O'Dell, also of Broadview Heights, said the community is installing gas detectors and holding practice drills in the event of a gas well explosion.
The rally was sponsored by the Ohio Sierra Club, Buckeye Forest Council and Living Simply.
Photo: Cheryl Johncox of Buckeye Forest Council