Home rule goes up against the fracking industry – and the political system
By: danps Saturday April 21, 2012 3:50 am FireDogLake.com
No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post
The fight against fracking in Ohio comes at a time when the state is approving new wells at a rapid pace. Local activists are organizing in an environment where the ground is constantly shifting under their feet – sometimes literally.
Anti-fracking activism has been influenced by developments both inside the state and beyond. At a recent public anti-fracking meeting a representative from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) described the experience of activists in western Pennsylvania several years ago.
Residents there began seeing lots of drilling sites, processing plants and other fracking infrastructure pop up. Neighborhood opposition responded through the regulatory process. Drillers needed permits, so locals educated themselves on permit writing. They enjoyed some early victories as improperly written permits were thrown out.
The wins were only temporary though. Drillers came back weeks or months later with rewritten permits that fixed the problems in the earlier ones. The new permits passed regulatory muster and the frackers moved in. At one point counsel for the companies jokingly thanked a CELDF representative for its help in putting together a bulletproof permit-writing process. As you might imagine, this was not the intended outcome.
The regulatory process may not be a suitable one for anti-fracking activists for other reasons as well. For one, regulations are not ultimately about protecting citizens; they are about legalizing harm. Regulation on, say, arsenic in drinking water is not based on the maximum amount that humans may safely consume, but on the maximum amount the industry can get legislators to allow. If they allow an amount that is unhealthy for humans or animals, those who suffer as a result have no legal recourse. The harm was permitted.
If you do not want the fracking to occur at all – if you think it is too unregulated, too opaque, and generally too hazardous – then fighting over regulation is a sucker’s game. You are not fighting over whether or not your community will expose itself to the tender mercies of the oil and gas industry, but over how much damage the industry will be allowed to do to it; and since the oil and gas industry is flooding the statehouse with lobbyists how do you think that fight will go?