If I had any initial fears of not finding (online) enough grassroots people to feature in this blog, those fears dissipated in my serendipitous discovery of Lori Babbey. Right when I wanted to feature a woman and talk about hydrofracturing, I stumbled across a local Ohio news article featuring her activism!
Lori Babbey is a Paris Township (about 1 ½ hrs southeast of Cleveland, near Canton) resident who is making sure that her surrounding community knows the dangers of “fracking”- a horizontal natural gas drilling method that pumps millions of gallons of water + chemicals at high pressure into a well to break up shale and then extract the gas – which releases hazardous, undisclosed substances into the shale, sometimes pollutes groundwater sources, and harms other bodies of water when its residue is disposed. The procedure of fracking has already polluted water sources and harmed human health in states like New Mexico and Colorado, and has recently spurred enormous controversy in New York and Pennsylvania for its pollution problems and trickery in the purchasing of rights to individuals’ land. Like NY and PA, Ohio overlays the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas source. With economists predicting political + economic pressure on natural gas drilling in the next few years as a result of increased foreign oil prices and with new Ohio governor/former-Lehman Brothers managing director/Fox news contributor Kasich calling the Marcellus Shale a “godsend” for Ohio, it’s likely that fracking could become a common practice in the state. Activists like Lori who notice fracking fouls and listen to experienced communities’ stories of the resulting environmental and health impacts of the practice are trying to inform citizens of the risks before they suffer any deleterious consequences.
While I couldn’t find any sort of online profile of Lori, she pops up in numerous local news stories around her region in Ohio for her repeated attendance at community meetings to educate the residents and resist the fracking companies’ take-over. Just the kind of grassroots person this blog wants to feature! In lieu of me describing her main points to the community, here’s a letter she wrote herself!
Sept. 24, 2010 letter published on Vindy.com (Youngstown, OH news):
“Beware of new drilling methods
Natural-gas drilling opera- tors [sic] have been aggressively pursuing landowners in northeastern Ohio, as well as the rest of the state, to quickly get them to sign leases to drill using well fracturing technology, also known as “fracking” or “fracing.” The oil and gas industry is quick to assure landowners that this is a safe drilling method that has little impact on the environment. This same industry has lobbied so heavily that it is virtually exempt from all basic environmental laws to protect the public. If they’ve spent millions to exempt themselves from regulations that are meant to protect us, do you think they have something to hide? There are no long-term, independent studies to show the effect this type of drilling has on our environment; however, mountains of evidence exist to show that people in hundreds of rural areas have had their water tables permanently contaminated, their health destroyed, and their properties have become worthless.
Well fracturing requires the injection of millions of gallons of fresh water, sand and toxic chemicals. The water is taken from nearby underground aquifers or trucked in. The toxic waste fluid left behind is injected back into injection wells and capped. Common sense dictates that eventually this toxic waste will permanently contaminate our underground water sources. The toxic fluids left underground during the drilling process (estimated at 20 percent of the fluids) have nowhere to go but into the nearest water source. During the actual drilling process, heavy truck traffic increases exponentially on neighborhood roads, as well as light and noise. County taxpayers end up bearing the burden of paying for road repairs.
In addition, in some states lending institutions are no longer financing new mortgages on properties that are under lease. Signing a lease could potentially prevent a future sale or second mortgage of your home. (See “Houses for Shale” published June 3, 2010, Pike County Courier)
Natural-gas well fracturing is a huge public health issue that is in the hands of a few property owners.
Don’t let the lure of cash cloud your judgment. By allowing gas “fracking” we will leave a legacy of death and destruction of our environment, our wildlife and our way of life. Please stop the mad dash for gas.
Lori Babbey, Newton Falls”
I thank Lori for her efforts to inform the public. So here you go, Ohio. We’re in a for a real debate these next few years, so get informed! Protect your rights, water, and health.
Some interesting & informative resources on fracking:
A Colossal Fracking Mess (Vanity Fair article about fracking)
Hydraulic Fracturing FAQs (with link to Gasland- the documentary!)
What is Hydraulic Fracturing? (diagram)