Mr. Thomas E Stewart, lobbyist for the Oil and Gas industry and executive director of Ohio Oil and Gas Association based out Granville Ohio, testified before the House Public Utilities Commission on May 22nd, 2012 concerning Governor Kasich’s ‘Energy Bill’, SB 315. Many amendments were offered to SB 315 concerning full chemical disclosure, dye tracers, fresh water well testing, local decision making on well placement and background checks for well operators, that would have added much needed protection for Ohioans, but these were disregarded for the most part in favor of a ‘gag’ rule which ties the hands of first responders and doctors in treating anyone affected by a toxic spill or drill site accident.

During questioning, Mr. Stewart, who is regarded as an authority on the unconventional method of horizontal hydraulically fractured extraction wells, also known as “fracking”, seemed to be unable to directly answer tough questions about the actual chemicals and the chemical disclosure amendment. It is rumored that Stewart played an important role in advising and writing SB 315 which should indicate a very thorough knowledge and ability to convey various aspects of the hydrofracking process to our legislators, but breaking video seems to indicate a reluctance to talk straight facts about the hazards.

The state of New York has imposed a moratorium on “fracking” to better study the process and protect residents and the environment from harm. The “Revised Draft - Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists in section 5, pages 102-105, over one hundred chemicals, many of which are known to be hazardous to humans even in small concentrations that are in the backflow waste water coming out of the hydraulically fractured wells.

In a recent video of the proceedings Mr. Stewart states that the wells are cleaned with Tide laundry detergent and goes on to say, quote: “Ohio produces, uh, probably the highest quality crude oil known to be produced in the world, it’s uh, Penngrade 38 green oil , it’s highly paraffinic, they actually skim the paraffin off in refineries and make candy out of it, they also make, uh, the coatings on Advil and M&M’s, so when you’re eating your next box of M&M’s, you’re eating crude oil.”

Are we to understand that the leading expert on fracking in Ohio is telling us that chemical disclosure is not needed because the process is so safe that we are eating it when we take pain medication or enjoy a sweet candy treat? It seems that a simple association between common everyday products and the complicated and untested process of hydraulic fracturing was the information our legislators needed to pass SB315 without legitimate chemical disclosure.

It is true that food grade paraffin is used in many food products, but it seems a stretch to suggest that full chemical disclosure is not needed during the drilling, backflow and production processes. The waste water generated by these “fracked” wells is toxic and cannot be cleaned up to be usable for human consumption or contact. Instead, it must be injected into Class II deep injection wells and according to the industry, tucked away safely underground forever. The Oil and Gas industry has kept its chemical cocktail secret under the Energy Act of 2005, nicknamed the “Halliburton Loophole”, which also prevents first responders and medical personnel from being able to handle an emergency exposure to the millions of gallons created by each well.

If the company decided that some of the chemical “types” were proprietary trade secrets, then the report would only state the “chemical class to which the component belongs”. “’If it was an organic compound and it was in the alkane family, then that is how they would describe it,’ said Rick Simmers, chief of the oil and gas division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ‘They are narrowing it down to a family or a type.’ A class or family could contain hundreds of different chemicals.” This general description is useless for assessing the danger to the public. From SB 315 -(H)(1) “If a medical professional, in order to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well, requests the exact chemical composition of each product, fluid or substance that is designated as a trade secret pursuant to division (I) of this section, the person claiming the trade secret protection pursuant to that division shall provide to the medical professional the exact chemical composition of the product, fluid or substance and of the chemical component in the product, fluid or substance that is requested.” (2) “a medical professional who receives information pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section shall keep the information confidential and shall not disclose the information for any purpose that is not related to the diagnosis and treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well.”

So returning to Stewart’s testimony, he uses this analogy for not being able to reveal the chemicals – quote: “Here’s how a producer gets it to flow again, he goes to the part, to the grocery store and he buys, Tide, and he puts it down the backside of the well which causes it to bubble up and foam up, lighten the fluid and the well flows. So to ask the question, what do you want me, as a producer, to give you the C.A.S. number of… Tide? “ (If an individual was overcome by soapy detergent water, would we need a ‘gag’ order in the first place?)

In correlation with the recent firing of Larry Wickstrom, State Geologist who has helped lead the charge to open up Ohio to hydraulic fracturing and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Districts decision to halt the sale of freshwater reserves until the impact can be further studied, it seems that a closer look at the Ohio Oil and Gas Associations leading expert and lobbyist should also be conducted. Time to slow down and study what is best for the residents, environment and economic stability of Ohio. It seems ludicrous that our legislators would buy into this “Eat the crude oil” analogy, but they can always find frack free alternatives to help with that fracturing headache they are going to have soon. It is the responsibility of all of us to get the facts and become active in contacting our elected public officials and follow in the footsteps of New York State that has recently extended a moratorium on ‘fracking” for the protection of its people. The mineral reserves aren’t going to disappear and it’s past time to put the health and welfare of people before the profits of the Oil and Gas Industry.

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