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Putting first responders first

Melanie Houston, June 4, 2015

No chemical reporting loopholes for oil and gas companies

Firefighters are heroes. These dedicated public servants selflessly risk their lives to keep us and our property safe when tragedy strikes.

Our first responders charge into situations that most of us can only conjure up in our worst nightmares. They deserve the best protection that we can give them. That’s why we were outraged to learn that a provision in the Ohio budget bill could unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of these heroes.

Creating a special exemption

Under federal law, companies must report their  inventories of hazardous chemicals to local firefighters and county emergency planning committees. This helps to protect first responders by equipping them with the fore-knowledge of what chemicals are present and how to best contain them in the event of a chemical fire or spill.

In the current budget bill, oil and gas drillers and suppliers would get a special exemption from this reporting requirement. Instead of disclosing their chemical inventories to firefighters and emergency planners, they would only have to report to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Let’s leave emergency planning to the experts

This is a problem because it puts one extra, unnecessary step between first responders and the information that they need to plan and respond to emergencies. It is also a problem because the ODNR is not in the business of responding to large-scale emergencies. This became painfully clear in the aftermath of the Monroe County frack fire in the summer of 2014.

The Columbus Dispatch story, “Fracking fire points out failings” exposed some of the things that went wrong at this massive frack fire. The ODNR simply is not an emergency management agency, nor do they have the resources or expertise needed to house and manage hazardous chemical information.

Although we aren’t privy to all of the chemicals fracking companies use, we do know of at least 65 that are hazardous and linked to blood, kidney, heart, and liver damage after prolonged exposure. These chemicals are no joke, and we need the experts to have this information when making life or death decisions for themselves and Ohio families.

Emergency responders have a huge responsibility to the public, and carry this responsibility bravely despite the risks. We should be striving to make their jobs easier, not putting barriers between them and the information they need to protect themselves and us.

Get Involved

The Ohio Senate is set to begin amending the budget bill during the weeks of June 8 and 15. They need to hear from you about removing this dangerous chemical reporting loophole. You can tweet directly at key lawmakers by clicking the links below. Several of these lawmakers are on the fence on this issue, and we need to let them know that they have the support of the public!