Fracking Our Way into Oblivion, One Ecological Disaster at a Time – III

A fire and some 30 related explosions at a Halliburton fracking site in rural Clarington, Ohio this past July rained shrapnel over the neighboring area and resulted in the release of tens of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into a tributary of the Ohio River located less than 10 miles upstream from a public water intake on the West Virginia side of the river.  It took firefighters a full week to put out the conflagration, and the chemical spill caused a massive fish kill and untold damage to the ecosystem, not to mention the strong likelihood of local drinking water contamination.  Yet, as efforts to contain the blaze were ongoing, public safety officials were kept in the dark as to exactly what chemicals and toxins they were actually dealing with.  Not only did this hamper their ability to function efficiently, it exposed everyone involved, including residents of the surrounding area, to a laundry list of chemical poisons including diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol and radioactive celium-137.  Officials only ordered the evacuation of residents within a one-mile radius of the fire but, in hindsight, the evacuation should have been far wider.


Why weren’t more people evacuated?  Why did it take a whole week to control the blaze?  Why didn’t local and regional officials know exactly what chemicals and toxins were involved in the disaster?  The answer is, in large part, that energy companies are routinely given a pass on transparency and accountability when it comes to fracking “accidents.”   Whether this is due to their cozy political ties, the utter ineptitude (dare I imply corruption?) of those charged with regulating the industry and protecting the citizenry, or a combination of both, I can’t say for certain.  However, according to an Ohio law which is mirrored on the books of many other states where fracking is lucrative, an energy company’s right to protect its proprietary trade secrets (i.e., the mix of chemicals it uses to extract natural gas from the earth) outweighs the public’s right to access the information necessary to protect itself.  Shockingly, of the 30 states where fracking occurs, only six require the advance disclosure of fracking chemicals that will be used.


In the aftermath of the massive Halliburton fire and fish kill, Ohio Governor and long-time fracking supporter John Kasich has gone on record as favoring changes in his state’s fracking laws.  Governor Kasich now finds it “unacceptable for emergency responders, including federal and Ohio EPA officials, not to know the full list of chemicals that might have spilled into the river.”  No kidding!  Can’t wait to see what happens next.