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Santorum Loves Fracking; 72% of Ohio Voters Favor Moratorium

March 6, 2012

The Ohio GOP is breaking ranks with Republicans on the issue of fracking, the Washington Post reports today (AP): “When it comes to the controversial gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, the Republican Party itself appears fractured — especially in the critical swing state of Ohio.”

Despite a recent opinion poll showing that 72% of Ohio voters favor a moratorium on fracking, the Ohio Republicans are hardly radical in their approach to high-volume hydraulic fracturing or to politics. Ohio Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, for example, has endorsed Rick Santorum. In a punchy piece published in February, “Santorum’s Well-Compensated Love of Fracking,” Salon.com writer David Sirota commented that Santorum’s “claims about the practice’s safety puts him far to the right of his state’s GOP — and the oil industry.” After making a carefully documented case that Santorum is playing fast and loose with the facts about fracking, Sirota comes to the point regarding the enormous and disproportionate contributions oil and gas corporations have made to Santorum:

As the Center for Responsive Politics reports, Santorum is one of the top U.S. Senate recipients of campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry — and what makes those numbers so stunningly outsized is the fact that he remains one of the top Senate recipients even though the last time he ran for Senate was in 2006. Put another way, this is not a run-of-the-mill legislator who happened to get a few afterthought contributions from the industry; this is a guy who was such a sycophantic apostle of the industry that he received enough oil and gas money to keep him on the top-recipient list a full six years after he was voted out of office — that is,a full six years after he raised a single dollar for a Senate campaign.

Nonetheless, against a backdrop in which Super Tuesday voters find themselves faced with a field of GOP contenders who all want to give the poor fracking industry big breaks — even less regulation, even less taxes — AP reports in today’s Washington Post that Ohio is different:

Republican Gov. John Kasich plans to introduce a new energy policy next week that would place a new tax on hydraulic fracturing to reduce personal income taxes for the state’s residents….

Kasich has also placed a moratorium on the deep injection of drilling wastes for disposal within five miles of a well site…The process is separate from fracking — which is the pumping of water, chemicals and sand underground to open fissures in rock to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface — but it is expected to grow as fracking in neighboring states sends more waste into Ohio.

In addition, the state’s Republican attorney general, Mike DeWine, has called for steeper fines on the growing industry and for drillers to disclose the chemicals they’re injecting, actions that would bring Ohio in line with the toughest regulations in the nation.

In an even more interesting in-depth story about the politics of fracking in Ohio two days ago, the Washington Post published a photo of an Ohio protester holding up a sign saying, “Fracking Math: 1% Rich, 99% Sick.” Published March 3rd, Steven Mufson’s story said that nearly three-quarters of Ohio’s general public currently supports a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. In a January Quinnipiac University opinion poll,

Voters said by a 72-to-23 percent margin that hydraulic fracturing should be suspended until there are further studies about its impact. They said by a 43-to-16 percent margin that fracking would damage the environment.

Support for a moratorium was strong among all groups, Quinnipiac said.

Mufson does a good job tracking fracking troubles in Ohio, beginning with the Bainbridge, Ohio explosion in 2007 which catapaulted an elderly couple out of bed, lifted their home off its foundation, and caused the evacuation of 19 families, due to methane migration from fracking. Pennsylvania, just across the Ohio border, is rampant with examples of methane migration and other problems, such as sediment runoff on a massive scale, which impact surface water.

Mufson’s story in the Post ranges from methane migration to water contamination and earthquakes:

In some cases, however, companies that haven’t drilled properly have contaminated water aquifers. And “fracking,” which uses about 4.5 million gallons of water — about 1,300 tank trucks full — to initially stimulate a well and get it flowing, has raised concerns about the disposal of toxic drilling waste; a Youngstown, Ohio, disposal well for fracking waste has been linked by seismologists to earthquakes. In December, the governor ordered the closure of several disposal wells in the area.

Mufson comments, “So far, Ohio’s main role in the shale gas boom has been to bury Pennsylvania’s waste.” He did his homework regarding Ohio’s earthquakes. He spoke with seismologist John Armbruster of Columbia University, who explained that in deep injection wells, the waste is pumped in at extremely high pressures — high enough to lift the Empire State Building.

Read the full story here.

2 Comments
  1. March 6, 2012 6:01 pm

    This is terrific news. Thanks for spreading it around. Ultimately I believe we will win the public relations and science battle in PA as more states around us act sensibly if not completely toward the ultimate objective – a ban on a process that more than likely will never be proven to be safe.

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