An open letter to the elected officials of Portage County, originally published at http://www.recordpub.com/news/article/5211869
"Since 2004, a growing group of citizens has studied deep drilling for natural gas and the proliferation of disposal wells for their toxic waste. With alarm, we have watched Portage County become a huge -- and easy -- target for drilling and dumping.
"Like good citizens, we've relentlessly informed ourselves about fracking. We've been rigorously honest and utterly unmotivated by financial gain. With faith that our warnings would find receptive officials, we have appeared before trustees, mayors, city councils, commissioners, and others, begging for your concern for the disaster that deep drilling and disposal wells most certainly pose.
"We have pointed to serious problems in 10 other states. For example, Pennsylvania reports clusters of well-related health issues: developmental delays, spontaneous bleeding, blisters, rashes, neurological problems and cancer. In Butler County, water runs coal-black from taps, and deer drop dead beside streams they drink from.
"We give you facts impossible to ignore, showing videos and citing references.
"However, you, whom from childhood we have respected with a patriotic love of our country's system of representative government, tell us that since "your hands are tied," your public meetings can't be "platforms" for deep drilling or injection wells. "There is nothing we can do," you have told us, because "state law preempts our power." "Please don't bring this up in our meetings," you say. "We have real problems to discuss."
"We understand: Many of you have leased your own lands to the oil and gas industry. We, too, thought fracking might be a solution for jobs and a cleaner energy. Now as evidence against it escalates around the nation, is it not honorable to admit that you have been mistaken?
"Shockingly, some of you openly state you do not want new information. "Don't give me the facts," you imply, "My mind is made up." Shame on you! You represent us: it is your moral obligation to understand this unproven, dangerously risky technology.
"For those who express concern: Why haven't you led a real fight against this for-profit industry that determines government policy, exempts itself from federal regulations and invades the lands, homes, and health of the residents who rely on you?
"Elected officials, you have the opportunity to act on behalf of caution, the flourishing of the environment, and our children and grandchildren.
"Yes, state law trumps local law for now. However, you can raise your voices against deep drilling and the dumping of toxic wastes that Portage County is experiencing. The state has not preempted your ability to think, learn and choose.
"In Trumbull County, Weathersfield Township and Niles officials have just signed resolutions to ban injection wells. Why did they dare, and why can't you, here in Portage County?"
Mary Greer, Shalersville