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Special Update: Ohio Senate makes progress closing chemical secrecy loophole for fracking companies

Jack Shaner, June 12, 2015

Pictured to the right: Columbus Dispatch photo of Monroe County Frack Fire

Earlier this month, hundreds of you took to Twitter and Facebook to let key lawmakers know that Ohioans don’t want special exemptions from chemical reporting laws for fracking companies. Through these efforts we were able to get this issue in front of nearly 100,000 people, including your state lawmakers in Columbus!

Thanks to you, the Ohio Senate is starting to stand up to the oil and gas industry. The Senate’s version of the budget bill now includes a provision to require oil and gas companies to disclose the identity of trade secret chemicals to the Ohio EPA. The Ohio EPA can then share that information with drinking water utilities in the event of an emergency.

This is solid progress and we fully support it.

But, this provision alone still falls short. Local firefighters and emergency planning committees still would not receive this trade secreted chemical information in the event of an emergency, such as a spill, fire or chemical release.

Additionally, this change does not address the chemical reporting loophole we told you about earlier this month. This loophole furthers ODNR’s ability to oversee reporting of hazardous and extremely hazardous chemicals in Ohio. It gives ODNR the discretion to determine which chemicals it makes publically available and to serve as an intermediary between fracking companies and emergency planners and local firefighters.

At least one county emergency planning official has come out against this loophole.

Don McDonald, a retired firefighter and Program Director for Stark County’s Local Emergency Planning Commission, testified recently about his concerns for how the proposed reporting process could affect his work to protect citizens in his county.

His testimony included concerns that ODNR doesn’t have the capacity to enforce reporting deadlines for fracking companies. He’s also worried this would result in a serious delay in getting information about hazardous chemical and explosives stored at fracking sites to emergency planners.

“DNR does not seem to have the staffing or ability to facilitate the type of interaction needed between well owners and EMA or first responders,” he said before an Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee.

This was clearly demonstrated in the aftermath of the Monroe County frack fire, last summer. According to a Columbus Dispatch Story “Fracking fire points out failings,” both the Ohio and U.S. EPAs waited five days to learn what made up the proprietary chemicals that were on the well pad during the fire.

So, we still have work to do. But thanks to your support, we have gained some traction with key lawmakers to fix these issues. There is still time for us to make an impact. We need to keep the pressure on!

Take Action

Tweet at Ohio lawmakers to fully remove the fracking chemical reporting loophole in HB64. Click on the links below to send your tweet. Not on twitter? Call or email these lawmakers with your concerns. Full contact information available here.