Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rights of gas drillers vs people before Ohio Legislature

A message from an Northeast Ohio artist-activist who I’ve worked with on other issues. Please act on this issue TODAY!

Dear Friends,
We need your help to protect our residential neighborhoods in NE Ohio from gas well drillers. During the fall, two revisions to current State law were introduced in the State Senate. The weaker bill of the two, known as SB165, was passed out of committee last week; it will likely be voted on by the full Senate early this week. Please ask your Senator to vote for several amendments. We expect SB165 to pass, but the more senators who vote to amend it, the more it strengthens the hand of our supporters in the House when the bill is presented and discussed there early next year.
So, I am asking you to
1. Write or call your senator to amend or vote “no” on SB 165 because it does not substantially change the oil and gas permitting laws of Ohio, give us control over our own lives, or adequately protect our environment. Even if you don’t live in northeast Ohio, please write to your Senator so he/she knows that there are concerned citizens throughout Ohio who care about this law. Feel free to include background information when you write.
E-mail the sample letter below to your friends all around Ohio and ask them to write their Senators, urging them to help us make changes to this bill.
Please send letters to the five Senators whose E-mail addresses are listed below. We think they may be persuadable. We need your help to fight the powerful lobby of the oil and gas industry that contributes well over a million dollars each year to try to persuade Ohio’s senators to vote with them. Be hopeful! You can make a difference! An e-mail campaign like this helped to save our state parks from being drilled!
THANK YOU!
Linda Butler, Mayfield Village, OH 44040

Sample letter:
Dear Senator_______,
During the next few days, SB165 will be voted on in the Senate. This bill may determine the safety of oil and gas drilling in Ohio for the next decade. Unfortunately it is sorely lacking in the sorts of changes that will protect homeowners and residents, protect drinking water sources, or protect the environment from the known hazards caused by drilling. To achieve these protections SB 165 at a minimum should be amended
A. to increase setbacks to a far greater distance than the proposed 150 feet;
B. to allow homeowners to have the right to refuse to have a hazardous industrial oil and gas operations in their neighborhoods or near their homes; and
C. to return control over the locating of oil and gas wells to local communities by requiring State regulators to abide by local zoning ordinances which determine appropriate land use throughout the State.
Thank you for refusing to pass SB165 without additional amendments.
Sincerely,
Your name, address zip code and (phone number)


If you don’t know your senator please go to Google and look up “Ohio State Senate”
On the left, please type in your zip code and you will find the name of your senator.

I. First, please write to your senator wherever you live. You will help our cause. Do it today!
II. Please write to these persuadable senators who may help our cause
Sen. Nina Turner (D), Cleveland (ward 2), Euclid, S Euclid
Fax 614-664-6164, Tel 614-466-4583, email, SD25@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Sen. Tom Sawyer (D), S and SE Summit County and Portage County
Fax 614-466-6660, Tel (614) 466-7041, e-mail SD28@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Sen. Tom Patton (R), Bay Village, Rocky River, Westlake, Fairview, N. Omstead, Berea, Olmstead Falls, Strongsville, N. Royalton, Broadview Hts., Brecksville, Chagrin Falls, Moreland Hills, Hunting Valley, Pepper Pike, Mayfield Hts, 7 Hills, Lyndhurst, Independence, Valley View, Walton Hills, Oakwood, Solon, Glenwillow
Fax 614-466-7662, Tel (614) 466-8056, e mail: SD24@senate.state.oh.us

Sen. Shirley Smith (D), Cleveland (e of Cuyahoga River), East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Newburgh Heights
Tel (614) 466-4582; Email SD25@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R), Cuyahoga Falls, Brunswick, Medina, Hudson, Boston Hts, Twinsburg, Macedoina, Sagamore Hills, Corthfiield Center, Peninsula, Bath, Monroe Falls, Silver Lake, part of Stow
Tel. 614-466-4823; Email SD27@senate.state.oh.us

III. Why not write these NE Ohio senators? Senators Grendell, Cafaro, and Miller already support our bill. Please write to thank them! Unfortunately Sen. Morano voted against our alternative bill (SB196) in the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee. But who knows, you may get her to change her vote in the Senate. Why not try!
Sen Tim Grendell (R) Highland Hts, Mayfield Village, Mayfield Hts, Gates Mills and Geauga and Lake Counties; Tel (614) 644-7718 Email SD18@senate.state.oh.us
Sen. Capri Cafaro (D), Minority Whip Ashtabula and Trumbull Counties;
Tel (614) 466-7182; Email SD32@maild.sen.state.oh.us
Sen. Dale Miller (D), Lakewood, Lindale, Brook Park, Middleburg Heights, Parma Hts. Parma and Cleveland on the west side of the Cuyahoga River
Tel (614) 466-5123; Email SD23@maild.sen.state.oh.us
Sen. Sue Morano (D) Huron & Lorain counties and part of Seneca
Fax 614-466-4120, Tel 614-644-7613 e-mail: SD13@maild.sen.state.oh.us

Resources:
For further information: NEOGAP website: www.NEOGAP.ORG
Short local films by Linda Butler about this subject are on UTube under “Earthophiles”
Ohio Environmental Council website: www.theOEC.org

Background
In 2004, a bill was passed in Ohio that dramatically changed oil and gas well regulation throughout Ohio. Who cares? I admit that I didn’t even know about it until drillers attempted to drill four wells near me in Mayfield Village--1 2, 4, and 6 blocks from my house! 20 volunteers rose up to defend ourselves from the drillers; we worked tirelessly to fend off proposed wells in our village, but other communities were not so fortunate. Gates Mills now has 45 residential gas wells; and Broadview Heights has 65 oil wells in residential areas.
A new form of drilling technique allows companies to extract oil and gas from shale formations in the eastern half of Ohio that were previously inaccessible. Using this technique known as “fracking.” drillers drill down to an underground shale formation about 3500 feet below the surface and ignite an underground explosion that breaks up the shale. Then brine and other undisclosed chemicals are thrust into the shale under high pressure to further damage the shale’s structure. This technique releases gas, and oil, but we do not know its future ramifications. We do know that it can seriously contaminate drinking water supplies by polluting underground water sources with toxic chemicals and hazardous waste products. Under current law, gas wells can be drilled without regard to watershed issues (the EPA does not regulate gas drilling until there is a spill!). New York recently passed a law to prevent gas drilling near NYC’s reservoir, fearing contamination of NYC’s water supply.
Imagine this; it’s true! Ohio’s 2004 law
1. Eliminates the ability of local zoning laws to control whether or not gas wells can be in the middle of residential neighborhoods.
2. Even though the oil companies must put together drilling units of 20 acres, they can force property owners who dissent to join those “pools” through “mandatory pooling.”
3. Drillers frequently lie or use pressure tactics to persuade residents to sign drilling leases;
4. Drillers can drill within 100 feet of a house—even if the owner does not want a well near his/her home;
5. A person who lives next door to a gas well can expect his/her home will lose at least 10% of its value just by being close to a well. Who wants to buy property next door to a gas or oil well?
Two years ago an accident occurred in Bainbridge Township (near Chagrin Falls) that alerted us all to the dangers of drilling. A driller bored through a local aquifer seeking gas; the gas seeped into the aquifer irreparably polluting the wells of 43 homes. One of the homes exploded at night blasting its 85-year-old occupants out of bed. This caused home values to drop by more than a 60%!
Since 2007, NEOGAP, a grassroots group, has been fighting for better laws. A weak new law known as “SB165” will be voted on in the next week. SB165 may be approved “as is” or amended by the Senate. The Governor is supporting the bill in part because it increases state revenues. Although the new bill contains increased enforcement powers for the regulators in Columbus, it contains no provisions that would give local residents control over placement of wells in residential neighborhoods. It limits drillers to five requests for mandatory pooling per year, but does nothing to end intimidation. It increases minimum setbacks from 100 to 150 ft from homes—but this distance is still far too close to homes for a hazardous industrial activity.
We need your support for amendments to the present bill. The more senators who vote to amend this bill, or vote against SB 165, the more likely Ohio’s House will add important additional changes in 2010.
If you do one thing, please write to your senator. It will take less than 5 minutes.
Thank you for your help! Linda Butler, photographer, Mayfield Village, OH 44040

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