Ohio firefighters, cops, and local officials might soon learn a little bit more about the poisons that frackers are storing and injecting into the ground beneath their feet.
The U.S. EPA told the state that a 12-year-old Ohio law that lets the fracking industry conceal information from emergency-management officials and first responders violates federal law. From The Columbus Dispatch:
The state law, passed in 2001, requires that drilling companies share information about hazardous chemicals only with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is supposed to keep the information available for local officials.
But federal EPA officials take a different view. A letter mailed in May to state emergency officials and environmental activist Teresa Mills states that the Right-to-Know Act of 1986 supersedes the Ohio law.
The Right-to-Know Act requires companies to share a hazardous-chemical inventory with local officials.
Mills, an Ohio organizer with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, demanded yesterday that the state revoke its law. Mills said local officials need to know which chemicals are used in fracking wells in case they have to respond to a fire, spill or other emergency.
Green groups have pointed to a January spill at an oil well in St. Marys, Ohio, as an example of the problem, the AP reports: “They said that when concentrated chemical odors were detected at the facility, local emergency responders were unable to access required chemical data that was supposed to be on file.”
State officials told the Dispatch that they were still reviewing the EPA’s letter and weren’t ready to comment on next steps, other than to say they would contact gas and oil companies “to make sure everyone is in compliance with their reporting obligations under state and federal law.”
The fracking industry disputed the claim that federal law is being violated. One of its representatives ridiculed the importance of the national rules to firefighters. From the article:
[Ohio Oil and Gas Association Vice President Tom Stewart said] fire departments can access a Natural Resources website that is supposed to contain information on fracking chemicals.
“(Before 2001), everyone was filing these paper reports on individual wells. They were storing them in boxes in firehouses,” Stewart said. “Is a firefighter supposed to rummage around in a box or go to an emergency?”
We’re pretty sure that’s not how it works, but there you go.