Local frack protestor draws support during pretrial
By Sarah Volpenhein, CG News
Members of Appalachia Resist! and other protestors created a buzz in front of the Athens County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon where Madeline ffitch’s pretrial hearing was held.
About 80 people gathered to call for the immediate closure of the Ginsburg well in Alexander Township, a frack-waste injection well with a history of Ohio Department of Natural Resource (ODNR) violations dating back to 1986.
Among the speakers at the protest was ffitch, who was arrested in June under charges of inducing panic, a fifth-degree felony, after protesting frack-waste injection wells by locking her arms inside two concrete barrels blocking the entrance to the Ginsburg well.
“I believe that the statute of inducing panic is unconstitutionally vague,” said ffitch. “I believe that this vague statute was used to make an example of me and to deter other future protestors.”
Before ffitch’s exit from her pretrial hearing, Members of Appalachia Resist! encouraged protestors to call three ODNR officials and demand that the Ginsburg well be shut down.
According to information Appalachia Resist! members passed out at the protest, the Ginsburg well is “considered to be the worst injection well out of the 177 within Ohio.” The well also failed a mechanical integrity test, and spills and faulty valves have been repeatedly cited at the well.
“One of the scary things about [the wells] is that we don’t know what’s going into what well,” said Elisa Young, an activist present at the protest. “There are combinations of [chemicals] in here that [the ODNR] say you should not mix.”
Young cited Material Safety Data Sheets obtained from the ODNR website, which list the hazardous chemicals used in Ohio wells.
“This is not an acceptable way to do business. This is not commerce; this is crime,” she said, referring to the oil and gas company’s dumping of hazardous waste into the Ginsburg well.
Marilyn Hunt, a resident of Wetzel County, W.Va., also spoke to the crowd about “clustered cases of leukemia in Butler County [W.Va.]” since fracking arrived in the area. “What people are being exposed to is a cocktail of carcinogens,” she said.
Other protestors voiced their opinions by holding signs with phrases such as “Keep the frack out of my water” and “Prosecute the frackers.”
Ffitch, who exited the courthouse at 2:30 p.m., announced that she pled guilty instead to a reduced charge, a misdemeanor that will be dismissed after one year. She also announced that she would have to pay restitution for “law enforcement overreaction.”
“Why does our state take a position of non-enforcement against these injection well violations and yet takes a position of strong enforcement against community protests of such violations? I once again ask the state of Ohio to protect people who live in Ohio, who drink the water here, who raise their children here, who have farms here, rather than protecting the oil and gas industry,” ffitch said. “If the prosecutor believes that grossly overcharging civil disobedience will stop the strong tide of civil disobedience in Appalachia Ohio, he is wrong. On the contrary, we are picking up speed, we are gathering momentum, and we will continue this fight.”
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