Debate Center: What’s in your landfill?
By Alex Culpepper
The process of extracting natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces a briny, liquid waste during the drilling process. Normally, these liquid wastes are stored in injection wells underground. If certain actions by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are reliable signals, then that waste could be coming to Ohio landfills as a by-product from drilling here in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and possibly New York.
Liquid waste from fracking cannot be dumped in landfills because it is considered “hazardous” waste. It first must be solidified with non-hazardous material, such as dirt. Recent news has it, however, that Governor John Kasich’s latest budget bill has wording that will allow hazardous waste in landfills, and an official at the Ohio EPA drafted an advisory back in September 2012 that basically tells landfills they should be seeing more fracking waste. Some of this waste might be solidified before it gets here, but a few Ohio landfills have already started the process for developing solidification facilities. Some even have them built and ready to go.
Opponents of the landfill option don’t want the fracking waste in a dump in any form. They say their biggest fear is fracking waste contains volatile chemicals and compounds, such as benzene and radioactive by-products. Opponents further state these chemicals pose possible health risks for anyone who handles this waste on a regular basis or who lives near the landfill. They also claim science is not up to speed with this form of disposal because research on the impact of solidified fracking waste in landfills is lacking.
Companies that deal with fracking waste say the landfill option is safe, and a plan for landfill disposal in Ohio already is in order. The Ohio EPA advisory has opened the door for the landfill option, and they claim drilling companies are seeking alternatives to deal with fracking wastes. According to a Pennsylvania EPA blog, a few Ohio landfills have already taken fracking waste back in 2012. Further, the EPA has a history of allowing other liquid wastes to be solidified and dumped into landfills.
Discussion about the possibility of landfills as disposal centers is out there. People who do not favor the landfill option don’t want the waste in a landfill, or they at least want proof showing contamination of land, air or groundwater can be prevented. Industry representation believes that the landfill option is safely viable, and the Ohio EPA has placed the option on the table.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com
Debate question of the week
Should hazardous fracking waste from shale drilling be disposed in Ohio landfills?
Debate Left: Poisoning the well
By: Marianne Stanley
I’m pretty sure that when God gave man dominion over all the Earth, He didn’t mean we could attack, rob, rape and kill her. Yet, we have been doing just that.
Only a people who have gone mad would intentionally cut off the source of their own existence. There’s nothing like biting the hand that feeds you. We act as though we are all-powerful – mightier than anything in nature. How then, will we survive when the crops will no longer grow in our poisoned soil from all the chemicals we’ve spread across the land at the insistence of chemical companies? How will we survive when our air is too dirty to breathe, our waters too fouled to drink, our temperatures too extreme to endure?
I cannot help but feel ashamed and guilty as an American when I hear the stories of island nations that are being inundated by rising seas or about countries begging us to sign onto the environmental treaties since we are causing life-threatening situations for them through no fault of their own while we refuse to curb toxic, earth-warming emissions or put human life ahead of oil and gas production, ahead of God-almighty profits.
“Gasland” is a documentary everyone should see if they’re looking for information on fracking – what it is and what it does. When you hear the definition, you want to stand in front of a mirror screaming, “Are we nuts?” Permitting fracking is like inviting someone into your home to knock out its support beams with a sledgehammer while pouring chemicals into your drinking water. Allowing machinery to fracture the Earth’s shale rock underpinnings in order to “free up” the natural oil and gas there, is tantamount to planetary suicide. What will we drink when the last of our pristine aquifers that lie deep underground are fouled with these thousands of toxic chemicals? We have already poisoned our once-healthy rivers and lakes. What will we drink?
It is so important that we watch our knee-jerk positive reactions to such phrases as “American Energy Independence” or “ridding ourselves of dependence on foreign oil.” While that sounds patriotic and good, it is emphatically neither. The conversation rightly needs to be about stopping all oil and gas production and switching immediately to renewable energy sources like wind and solar power? Jobs will be plentiful and our economy will boom with the creation of this massive new industry.
The fossil fuel industry, with its complicit media and political henchmen, has driven the dialogue. They speak as though the continuation of that industry is mandatory, is a given, is good for us. None of that is true. The truth is that if we don’t turn our economy into one that leads the world as the top green economy in the world, we won’t be around much longer. And that is not said as hyperbole or for effect. The truth is that our planet is sending out its distress signals loud and clear and we ignore them at our peril.
The record losses of our forests to fires in the last few years (we need those leaves and their oxygen, to breathe), unheard-of weather events from killer tornadoes to violent storms and flooding that have left American homes and lives shattered, should be a wake-up call. Temperature swings have become historic, like the one we had earlier this year when we went from a high of 65 F to a low of minus 9 F in two days.
We don’t have time for “climate deniers” who wouldn’t even exist if they did their own research rather than rubber-stamping what they hear on FOX and the other mainstream media. Many may not realize that we quietly said goodbye to journalism as Rupert Murdock and other corporations bought out local media. Today, the corporate-media-politics brotherhood speaks with one mean-spirited, dishonest voice as it mutes all others. Like a cancer, these “profit at the expense of everything else” corporations will ultimately consume themselves, but unfortunately, they will take us all down with them. Fracking causes earthquakes, illness and toxic water. We must stop it.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Right:Ensuring Ohio solid waste from fracking is safe for Ohio landfills
By Dave Landon
There is discussion underway to allow solidified briny waste from shale drilling in Ohio and other states to be transferred to Ohio landfills in large volume. This could result in tens of millions of gallons of drilling liquids being solidified and dumped in Ohio’s 40 landfills. Because Ohio landfills cannot accept liquid wastes under current law, the liquid would have to be solidified. Materials used to achieve that could include cement kiln dust, fly ash, foundry sands, shredded auto parts or wood chips. Environmentalists are predictably up in arms as Ohio attempts to deal with this issue.
According to a recent study by the global information and research firm HIS, in 2012, there were 38,000 oil and natural gas-related jobs created in Ohio. Ohio job growth is expected to increase exponentially in the near future, with 143,595 new jobs by 2020 and 266,624 by 2035. The oil and natural gas industry in Ohio also paid more than $910 million in state and local taxes in 2011, according to the same study, and those tax dollars will continue to increase. In this stagnant, Obama-driven, national economy where the most recent quarterly gross national product has been revised downward to barely 1 percent, this is good news for Ohio families. While the country still struggles to climb out of the recession caused by the housing bubble burst and the toxic mortgages that flooded the market, Ohio has found a way out: by taking advantage of our natural resources.
Former Governor James Rhoads used to often say, “Ohio has more good things by accident than most other states have on purpose.” He was speaking of Ohio’s vast natural resources, including Ohio’s 100 years of coal buried beneath our state. If he were alive today, he would undoubtedly include the recent development of Ohio natural gas and oil obtained through the method of fracking as one of those “good things.”
Today, Ohio’s coal industry is under assault from the policies of Obama’s EPA. Thousands of Ohio jobs have already been lost as a result of those industry-killing policies. These attacks on fossil fuels are, at best, short-sighted attempts to control carbon dioxide emissions, but are more and more becoming an apparent and deliberate attempt to sacrifice free enterprise on the alter of global warming. Strike that – climate change.
There is one enormous problem to this plan to rapidly wean America’s economy from fossil fuels. There is, at present, no reasonable alternative. In 2012, the United States generated more than 4 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity. About 68 percent of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels, with 37 percent attributed from coal. We can, and should, be developing other sources of renewable energy, but the best estimates put the date of their viability at least 25 years away. If we stop coal production in the U.S. over the next four years, which seems to be the Obama plan, where will the energy come from to power American industries and small businesses? Transition to renewable sources of energy is decades away. Until then, can we please stop destroying the coal industry? And this brings us back to today’s topic: depositing fracking waste in Ohio.
The possibility of accepting the solidified waste is spelled out in a three-page advisory by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency released last September with major input from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The agencies would need to approve such requests from landfills. While the ODNR supervises drilling in Ohio; the EPA manages Ohio landfills. State rules give ODNR authority to approve other brine disposal methods, including, perhaps, depositing the solidified liquids in landfills. At the present time, no state approval has been given. Careful regulation of landfills assures Ohioans that there is no serious risk of leaching contaminants into the states’ water supplies.
This industry has the potential to create high paying jobs for Ohioans over the next twenty years. There will be obstacles to safe development of this new industry. I believe that Ohioans are smart enough to promote this job-creating industry without damaging our environment.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.