Baker said he and others working with Frack-Free Ohio have made inroads particularly with Muskingum County Conservancy District.

“We’ve managed to get them to halt the sales of water until an impact study can be done. The impact study will be finished towards the end of the year. So that’s an issue that’s coming up as far as water sales go.”

But he said private subcontracted haulers are taking water from easily accessible sources.

“They may be public or they may be just available and no one’s watching them. At this time, it’s not fully determined what the legalities are, which puts us in a really bad position at the grassroots level as far as pushing for some new laws and pushing for some oversight.”

He said laws and regulations are only as good as the persons willing to uphold them.

“We have plenty of laws. It just seems like we’re not always protected. Muskingum Watershed has a meeting this Friday at Pleasant Hill. We’ll be attending that, making our thoughts known there, inside and outside. We’re trying to cater to all folks with a rally and also testimony inside the board meeting.”

He said the Watershed Conservancy wants to continue to lease land and sell mineral rights.

“Most folks involved in this feel a conservancy’s mission is to preserve and protect the environment, not allow it to be used in a manner such as hydraulic fracturing.”

He said the Marcellus Shale Play has pretty much been defined.

“They’ve done exploratory wells into Ashland and Knox counties and they’re finding they’re not producing. So, they’re going to push back into Pennsylvania with horizontal hydraulic wells and try to get some more production. But what they’re doing now--Ohio Oil and Gas Association and Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program---is a series of workshops to educate folks on the benefits of the Utica Shale Play which has a little bit less depth in the Earth, but it extends to Marion.”

Baker said there are many more counties and areas of Ohio that are going to be subject to permitting and the influx of the natural gas industry.

“So, in the next 2-3 months, that’s one thing we’re going to be looking at: attending these educational forums and trying to make sure both sides of the picture are presented.”

How fracking affects water is a big concern.

“When I look at the consumption of fresh water--an average of 5 million gallons per frack or per well bore, up to 18 per drill pad. These 5 million gallons of water resources are mixed with chemicals. But because of the 2005 Energy Act, the chemicals aren’t fully disclosed and communities can’t even really protect themselves from these chemicals because we don’t know what to test for.”

“The waste water is a huge issue because most of that is disposed thru Class 2 wells which is the process of pumping the toxic liquid back into the earth and assuming it will never affect our water supply.”

Baker said there are some attempts to reverse the 2005 law.

“There are some federal regs being looked at , primarily having to do with full disclosure of the chemicals. There’s a report out of New York State that tested the flow-back chemicals of the water of Pennsylvania and New York that gave us a pretty full register of the chemicals that are in the water ---over 150 chemicals listed and 2-3 dozen that are toxic to humans. So, at the federal level there is slow movement. At the state level, we hear that with (Ohio Senate Bill) 315, we have the best protection ever. But most states are saying the same thing and the chemical disclosure is still inadequate.”

Baker said residents wanting to test waters for toxics face technical hurdles.

“It’s difficult. The ODNR has the ability and authority to test every load of brine or flow-back water but they don’t do that. They don’t make it an issue. It’s very difficult to follow a chain of custody, to obtain a sample and get it to a certified lab to have it tested, and get the results in time to really take any action.”

He said he expects a big push for injection well regulations.

“Maybe that will get ODNR out of the picture and remove primacy from ODNR, so we have an outside agency, permitting, inspecting, and overseeing the injection wells and the extraction wells.”

Baker said Frack-Free Ohio is preparing for the Global Frack-Down on Sept 22.

“ It’s an international day of protest. Fracking is a global issue affecting many people all over the world. Here in Mansfield, in Richland County, we have about a six county core group planning committee. We are planning a rally in downtown Mansfield, in Central Park.” Food and Water Watch is sponsoring the international day of action against fracking.

“We have a local organizer (with Food and Water Watch) in Cincinnati for the State of Ohio. We’ve been participating in planning conferences and it will be a major event. I don’t know all of the countries involved but I believe there is a huge contingent from Canada and the US. The UK has some actions planned, as well as Australia. It will be exciting to see how it unfolds. In Ohio there will be a loud cry to ban fracking since we haven’t been successful in getting regulations.”

He said there will be an injection well issue on their local ballot called The Bill of Rights.

“It’s an attempt to take back local control and return local decision-making to our city council and the residents as to whether we want to permit injection wells or not. A core component of this is that it criminalizes fracking fluid without legislative approval, and legislative approval in our city limits would require disclosure of the chemicals. We’re back to that same issue of wanting to know what the heck is in this water. Is it just safe brine water as the industry tells us?”

Baker said the organization he works with, Frack-Free Ohio, is working with activists beyond our state.

“We have a 5 or 6 state membership as well as 2 or 3 countries. It just developed organically, and what attracted us to each other is this common cause. There are similar issues. It’s the same everywhere: the industry portraying fracking as the answer to economic woes, without fully disclosing the hazards to the environment--the fresh water issues and the toxic waste water that’s left over.”

People he’s met in the community have voiced their concerns about fracking.

“Here locally, I had the opportunity to speak to a couple hundred folks at an event and I just asked them if they knew about fracking and how they felt about it. It was a general thumbs down. I think there’s a lot of concern about what hasn’t been disclosed. As far as what people in other communities think, the Frack-Free Ohio group has a 35 county coalition. Those of us that are educated about this issue will go into a community where we’re asked to present. We ask some questions to see how people there feel about it.”

Baker and activists with Frack-Free Ohio recently held an injection well forum in Mount Gilead, in Morrow County, which Baker said is “inundated with Clinton Sandstone extraction wells and the brine injection wells.”

“We had a packed house with over 50 people and started putting the information out. Not all of them are activists. They came looking for information. There’s a concern statewide and further on this.”

On June 26, Madeline ffitch shut down the Ginsburg wastewater injection well site on Ladd Ridge Road, west of Athens, Ohio by locking herself to two 50 gallon cement-filled drums.

“We regard her as a concerned citizen who discovered a threat to her community and she has stood up to protect her community. That’s one tactic. Not every activist would go to those lengths but it’s certainly admirable that she was willing to do this,” Baker said.

Attorneys Bob Fitrakis and Connie Gadell-Newton are representing ffitch as she faces what fellow activists regard as excessive charges.

“They really have come down hard on her for some unknown reason. A young man named Ron (Shalom) blockaded a well in Youngstown about 6-8 weeks ago and received a trespassing charge. Madeline has been charged with inducing panic, a 5th degree felony.”

Baker said he doesn’t know for sure the rationale for that.

“We’re puzzled as to why charges went to that extreme. One word we’ve received---I think I read this in another news report----is that when they asked her to go away quietly, she said no, she wanted to make a statement. Then they basically said, ‘well, we’re going to make this go hard on you.’ That’s what the sheriff’s department told her. And they are. Her arraignment was last Wednesday, the 15th. Basically, she pled not guilty and asked for a jury trial and I believe the trial will begin sometime in early October.”

I asked Baker about industry claims that fracking is necessary for supplying our need for heating our homes.

“Natural gas went from $10/ Btu to $2/Btu over the last 12 months. One reason was what I call Earth karma. We had a mild winter working in our favor. The second reason is lack of foresight by the industry. They promised us huge volumes of resources and they actually over-supplied the market.”

He said he has grave concerns about that.

“Out west, they’re flaring off over 1/3 of the natural gas withdrawn from the wells because it’s not economically viable for them to store and transport it. So I don’t think the industry is really benefiting us as far as the resource side of it goes. It’s more profit-driven for Wall Street speculation in my mind.”

Baker said his activism is tied to other causes.

“ We’re all tied together by our environment and fresh water resources---earlier this year around Earth Day, I scheduled a green technology think shop, where we brought folks in to do presentations on bike share-ways and alternative transportation.”

He said he and other residents are working on a program called Locally Grown Power.

“It will produce and install solar panels on residential homes to help with the energy crunch. It’s a very broad picture about a societal change that’s taking place. Our dependence on fossil fuels is wavering for many reasons---the cost to the Earth it takes to extract these resources. And we’re seeing other countries like Germany and Japan willingly giving up nuclear energy and fossil fuels to embrace sustainable and renewable energy. It’s kind of interesting to be alive and involved at this stage of the game.”

Baker said he does not have a gloom-and-doom approach to environmentalism.

“I just read an article and they call it a syndrome of apocalypse. Myself, I’m a very positive person. I know we’re in a critical stage, but think of all the apocalypses that were supposed to occur but that we’ve already survived. It used to be more of a religious note but now it seems that environmentalists and anti-war folks and many groups try to say if we don’t act now, the world will be over in a few years.

“I really don’t believe that’s the trend, but I think we’re crossing lines or levels of change that may not be reversible. Truth be known. In my world, I don’t think we’ve been able to study models of different directions of where the Earth is going, how quickly can it heal itself and rebound.”

He said he looks at these issues in a black-and-white sense.

‘There are a lot of grey areas, but ‘is this beneficial to society or is it detrimental ?’ I don’t know think it’s going to kill us in the next few years but fracking seems to be detrimental to progress.”

Frack-Free Ohio is raising money to fund its work.

“It’s really heartening to see how willing folks are to chip in. My main target is people that are maybe at home and don’t know what else to do, but can throw in $5, $10, or $20.”

He explained his view on using social media.

“I would like to believe we’re engaging a big segment of the community that either doesn’t have the time or the ability to get out and rally and knock on doors.”

He said activism involves financial challenges.

“I own my home and my car. If it weren’t for that, and actually if it weren’t for the lack of business---I run an auto body and detailing shop out of my home---well, time is precious too when it comes to being able to do activism. When I hold organizational meetings, I’m by the book. We get down to business and I really try to keep the focus because time is money.”

“There are a lot of activists that are almost nomadic in a sense. They travel from camp to camp and action to action. There are folks that support them---feed them and house them to have bodies to rally and do things. It’s a complex financial situation. We don’t have the billions of dollars the industry has; it’s amazing we get as much done as we do with the limited resources we have.”

Baker said activists have something valuable: the truth.

“That’s what I share with the folks I’m working with. They say ‘we need ads, billboards, and slick documentaries.’ I say, ‘well, we don’t have those, but we do have the truth on our side.’ As we engage the public, one or a few people at a time, that speaks volumes. You don’t have to hire someone for a slick ad campaign when you’re telling the truth.”