Oberlin Students Protest Fracking, Get Arrested in Youngstown
by Phoebe Flaherty and Nora Graubard
reposted from The Oberlin Review
Dec. 5, 2011
Five Oberlin students and one alumnus were arrested last Wednesday, Nov. 30, for their involvement in blocking an access gate to an injection well in Youngstown Ohio, owned by energy company V&M Star. The action was in response to the YOUNG 2011 Conference and Expo, the first natural gas and hydraulic fracturing industry conference in the state of Ohio, that was taking place in Youngstown that day. The group of 14 Oberlin and Youngstown community activists attempted to prevent trucks carrying toxic fracking wastewater from entering V&M Star’s wastewater injection site.
Oberlin students joined community activists in Youngtown to protest energy company V&M Star’s use of fracking, a method used for extracting oil and natural gas from the ground. Read the full story here.
“There is no guarantee that these toxins don’t migrate into drinking water, only a guarantee that these companies put profits before our health and safety,” said anti-fracking activist and member of the blockade Ben Shapiro, OC ’08.
Protestors carried banners reading, “Ohio Is Not for Sale” and “Stop Toxic Earthquakes,” while singing chants such as “Hey hey, ho ho, Ohio fracking’s got to go!”
The activists claim that fracking, a method used for extracting oil and natural gas that involves pumping highly pressurized fluid into rock layers, has polluted drinking water supplies in communities all across the country.
ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsource that produces investigative journalism concerning the public interest, has identified more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites. Anti-fracking activists also maintain that the injection of brine into deep rock formation can lubricate faults and is thought to be the cause of the seven recorded earthquakes with epicenters in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
V & M Star is currently planning to expand its Youngstown site and insists that the plant provides critical employment opportunities in the area, which has an unemployment rate of 11 percent. The Associated Press reported Sunday that their $650 million expansion would provide 350 Youngstown jobs as the mill will produce pipes and materials used in the fracking process.
College first-year Jackson Kusiak, another protester, said, “We want to make it clear to the natural gas industry and to our representatives that fracking is unsafe and irresponsible and not the solution for our country’s energy problems.”
Also in response to the YOUNG Conference, hundreds of activists and community members participated in a march and rally organized by No Frack Ohio in downtown Youngstown to protest hydraulic fracturing in locations across Ohio. The injection well protestors were not affiliated with No Frack Ohio.
Kusiak, College sophomore Jeremy Bingham, College junior Annie Lukins, College first-year Ben Marks and College sophomore Lindsey Schwartz, along with Shapiro and 61-year-old Youngstown resident Sean O’Toole, were arrested later that afternoon for their participation in the blockade. They were arraigned Thursday morning and released after posting bail.
Lukins said, “A country where our most toxic waste is put in the same place as our drinking water is a country where our human bodies are used as waste disposal and that is illogical, inhumane and we can’t allow it.”