Posts Tagged 'Safety'

State Rep. Antonio Calls on ODNR to Test Toxic Frack Waste

State Representative Nickie J. Antonio joined with other concerned citizens and wrote a letter to the Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director and Staff calling on the agency to carry out testing of “brine”, as they have the authority to test.  “Brine” is the waste water from the hydro-fracturing process.

According to a report of the recent sampling of “brine” from the Hazel-Ginsberg injection well, the results show the sample contains high levels of alpha particles, arsenic, barium, and toluene, among other contaminants. The test was performed by Ben Stout, professor of biology at Wheeling Jesuit University and not ODNR.  Rep. Antonio is asking ODNR to start testing all “brine” and if the fluid is shown to be harmful to people it should be labeled a hazardous waste.  Pennsylvania hauls its fracked waste water to Ohio to dispose of in Ohio’s injection wells while ODNR receives 20 cents per gallon of “brine” for allowing them to dump it here.

The letter calls on ODNR for stewardship to ensure safety and the health of our environment.  “This is a public health concern which you have the responsibility and the authority to protect with regard to the environmental threats to the community health and wellbeing,” said Rep. Antonio. “As a state agency you should uphold transparency and public safety above all else.”

 A copy of the letter can be seen below:

July 11, 2012 

James Zehringer
ODNR, Director
2045 Morse Rd, Building D
Columbus, OH 43229-6693

Dear Director Zehringer:

I write today to respectfully request the Department of Natural Resources to test all “brine” waste water from the hydro-fracturing process.  According to a report of the recent sampling of brine from the Hazel-Ginsburg injection well by Ben Stout, biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, the results have shown the sample contains hazardous materials.  My understanding is that this is the first ever testing of “brine” by an outside source.  “Brine” is chemical laden produced “water” which is the end result of horizontal fracturing otherwise known as fracking.  As a public health precaution, “brine” should always be tested to determine the chemical components of the fluid before injecting it into a well in the earth. 

It should be noted that, Pennsylvania currently is hauling its fracked waste water to Ohio to dispose of in Ohio’s injection wells.  They are paying more than one million dollars a year to dump their waste here as they do not allow it in their own state.  As more wells in our Ohio are horizontally fracked, it is imperative to test brine before putting it into the earth again.

As you are aware, ODNR has authority to order testing of brine before it is injected under section 1509.06 of the Ohio Revised Code.  As your role is to carry out the testing of brine to protect Ohioans from pollutants that could harm them, the citizens of Ohio expect nothing less.  After testing, if any brine waste fluid is shown to be harmful to people it should then be labeled a hazardous waste.  Hazardous waste is dangerous and potentially harmful to our health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, gases, or sludges. They can be discarded commercial products, like cleaning fluids or pesticides, or the by-products of manufacturing processes.  This will ensure that if there is a spill or leak the proper procedures will be in place to remedy the situation.  This is a public health concern which you have the responsibility and the authority to protect with regard to the environmental threats to the community health and wellbeing.  As a state agency you should uphold transparency and public safety above all else.

The people of Ohio depend on your stewardship of Department of Natural Resources to ensure the safety and health of our environment now and in the future, and so I urge your action on this matter sooner than later. I appreciate your consideration and would also appreciate your timely response to this request.

Sincerely,

Nickie J. Antonio
State Representative
House District 13

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Reps. Celeste & Heard “Stand their Ground” On Overreaching Gun Legislation

State Reps. Ted Celeste and Tracy Maxwell Heard held a press conference highlighting the litany of current and pending gun-related bills under consideration in the General Assembly that put public safety and law enforcement officers in harms way.  They were joined by Toby Hoover, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence; Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio; and Rev. Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church.

Under the backdrop of a “Machine Gun Social” fundraiser flyer sent out by State Rep. Margaret Conditt in which supporters are invited to shoot automatic firearms – including an M60 machine gun – Rep. Celeste expressed his concern over the message conveyed by the flyer so soon after three students were killed by an armed gunman in Chardon High School.  This was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since 2005.

The speakers have signed onto a letter they plan to send to Rep. Conditt requesting that she cancel the event.  The letter will also be sent to Governor John Kasich, House Speaker William Batchelder, and Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Bennett.

“In this General Assembly alone, we’ve seen at least nine separate bills that pose a danger to public safety,” said Rep. Celeste.  “To parade about a fundraiser where supporters can shoot semi-automatic weapons for pleasure is distasteful and offensive to the memory of those students who were senselessly killed.”

Rep. Heard echoed his statements, and spoke to House Bill 263, legislation she’s introduced that would close a “gun show loophole” that allows criminals to purchase firearms at gun shows without undergoing a background check.

“I am not opposed to private citizens owning guns.  I am, however, gravely concerned about the escalating incidents of gun violence in this state and specifically in urban areas like my district – District 26,” said Rep. Heard. “It is our responsibility to ensure safety in our communities, and to fail to address what we know to have been an oversight that created a loophole which allows criminals and even terrorists to purchase guns illegally that end up on our city streets is a reckless disregard of our charge as legislators.”

Toby Hoover, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said current legislation under consideration in Ohio poses a serious threat to the safety of children and law enforcement officers who risk their lives everyday.  “Our families have the right to be free from gun violence,” said Hoover.  “The gun lobby’s vision for Ohio is any gun, anyone, anywhere, and then let them be judge and jury if they feel threatened.  These laws are threats to our freedom from violence.”

Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director of Progress Ohio, referenced statistics from a March 2012 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, pointing out that more children and teens died as a result of gun violence in 2008 and 2009 – 5,750 – than the number of US military personnel killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Rothenberg also took aim at the fundraiser flyer, pointing out the insensitivity of the phrase “Bring Your Own Gun.”  “There is a level of maturity and common sense that is lacking in this invitation,” said Rothenberg.  “It hasn’t been done before and there is a reason for it. Legislators need to be cognizant that this type of radical single issue politics leads to irresponsible laws like ‘Stand your ground’ in Florida.  She should really cancel this event, it demeans the office.”

Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church also cited the report, and argued that lawmakers must stop gun violence if Ohio’s children are going to have a prayer of hope and a future without fear.  “In a nation where number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48), we don’t need to arm more people and allow for more freedom to carry individual weapons of mass destruction.”

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Relief Fund for Schools and Communities Proposed by House Lawmakers

Ohio House Democratic lawmakers announced a new proposal today to help offset the impacts of last year’s historically deep state budget cuts to schools and local communities.  The Kids & Communities First Fund uses surplus revenue to make up to $400 million available to schools and communities this year, and another $500 million once Gov. John Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase takes effect.  

“The Kids and Communities First Fund will help keep teachers in the classroom, and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio,” said House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D–Beachwood). “Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers.”

The Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

“It’s been 15 years since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our school funding system is unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local property taxes,” said State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany).  “Today, instead of finding ways to reduce this over-reliance, the state of Ohio is walking away from that responsibility and leaving the burden of educating our children squarely on the backs of local property taxpayers.”

Lawmakers calculated that districts are facing a combined school-funding deficit of over $1.79 billion in fiscal year 2014.  This is based on a calculation of each school district’s five-year projection of finances, which is required to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.  Policy Matters Ohio also estimates that school districts in “Fiscal Watch” or “Fiscal Emergency” could spike by 300 percent this year, from 14 to 43.

“Stories of communities cutting or privatizing critical safety services and in some cases even considering dissolving all together are pouring in from across the state,” said State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati).  “If we don’t protect our communities, we undercut our economic recovery and hurt working and middle class families.”

Compared to fiscal year 2011, the state budget (HB 153) cut nearly $1.1 billion from communities last year.  Specifically, the Local Government Fund was cut by $463 million; state funding provided to offset previously eliminated business property taxes were cut by $492 million; and state funding provided to offset previously reduced utility property taxes were cut by $135 million.

“Failing to address last year’s deep budget cuts will hurt our schools and make Ohio less economically competitive.” said Rep. John P. Carney (D- Columbus).  “Doing nothing will keep forcing local taxes to go up and put more pressure on middle class Ohioans.” 

According to Matt Mayer, the former head of the conservative think-tank the Buckeye Institute, local property taxes have gone up in Ohio under Gov. Kasich because of state budget cuts.  In a recently published column, Mayer states, “net taxes on Ohioans have gone up under Governor Kasich, making our state even less competitive.”

“Our state is only as strong as our schools and our local communities,” State Rep. Matt Lundy (D- Elyria). “If we do nothing we will hurt our children’s education, weaken safety services in our communities and create even more pressure on local property taxpayers.”

The Kids & Communities First Fund would be available as early as July 2012, when the current fiscal year ends.  It would make up to $400 million available for schools and communities to apply for an emergency relief grant. After fiscal year 2013, the fund would be supported by the severance tax increase as proposed by Gov. Kasich and a portion of that funding would be available to protect local communities that are most affected by hydraulic fracturing though a local impact grant.

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Lawmakers Call for Gov. Kasich to make Prison Privatization Bids Public

As the plan to privatize and sell five state prisons moves ahead there have been multiple questions and concerns about public safety and conflicts of interest for the Kasich administration. State Reps Matt Lundy and W. Carlton Weddington sent a public records request to the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and the Governor’s office asking that the bids to privatize five Ohio prisons be made public. Their press release and comments are below.

“I continue to raise concerns over the secretive process in which Ohio’s prisons are being privatized. Previous questions over safety, cost and accountability have gone unanswered and ignored. Unfortunately, it has become clear this is just another example of Gov. Kasich rewarding his friends. It is time the veil of secrecy under which the Kasich administration operates is lifted,” said Rep. Lundy.  “Today we call for the Governor to release the bids that CCA, GEO and MTC have submitted. The public deserves to know what price tag has been put on their safety.”

Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Management and Training Corp. are the three companies that have submitted bids to purchase Ohio’s prisons. Gov. Kasich received contributions for his transition fund of $10,000 each from two of the companies seeking to buy Ohio’s prisons. All three companies hired close Gov. Kasich ties to lobby for their firms’ interest, including Gov. Kasich’s former congressional chief of staff and two political advisors to his gubernatorial campaign.

“I reiterate concerns today over the privatization of five state prisons. The CIIC’s recent report showing massive overcrowding coupled with the announcement of 950 jobs being lost should raise red flags for the public and the Kasich administration. Our safety and the safety of inmates are at risk. It is simply inexcusable that Gov. Kasich continue to keep the legislature and the public in the dark while our safety and security are at risk,” said Rep. Weddington. 

Currently terms of the bids from CCA, GEO and MTC are secret. There has been ongoing concern about the safety records of for-profit correctional institutions. In 1998, six inmates escaped from a CCA-run prison near Youngstown in broad daylight; five of the six escapees had been imprisoned for murder. Last year CCA, former employer of Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr, earned record profits of $1.7 billion. [Dayton Daily News, 8/8/2011]

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee’s (CIIC) recent Quarterly Report for the period April 1 through June 30, 2011 contains findings that five prisons are overcrowded at rates of 214 percent at the Lorain facility, 190 percent in Lebanon, and 174 percent at each of the following: the Chillicothe Correctional Institute, the Warren Correctional Institution, and the Ohio Reformatory for Women.  The overall overcrowding rate is 131 percent system-wide.

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