An Interview with Keith Sadler – Toledo Coalition for Safe EnergyWritten by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
SJ: Toledo’s BP-Husky Refinery is seeking a permit for the Toledo Feed Optimization Project (TFOP), which is preparing them to process crude oil from their Sunrise Oil field, more commonly known as Alberta Tar Sands. What does that mean for Toledo and why should we be concerned?
KS: First, Toledo should not be a part of the destructive process anywhere along the chain in Tar Sands exploitation from extraction to refining. With regards to the BP refinery, tar sands oil contains higher levels of sulfur dioxide and that would mean higher levels of toxic sulfur emissions in our air. Emissions from BP are already bad enough and dumping more poison into the air cannot and will not be tolerated.
SJ: You were a member of the UAW on and off for fourteen years, so you understand the importance of well paying jobs and supporting our local economy. People seem to turn a blind eye to environmental destruction in the name of jobs. What do you say to those who claim halting the BP expansion would hurt union jobs, and what long-term jobs could we be garnering in Toledo instead?
KS: I believe in good-paying union jobs, so why not bring wind farm jobs or wind turbine manufacturing jobs to Toledo, or organize workers currently working locally in the Solar industry. We need to make green jobs union jobs.
For decades our taxes, in the form of subsidies, have gone to the oil, coal and nuclear industries. Our government needs to do more in investing in green technologies and helping homeowners and businesses afford to convert to wind and solars.
SJ: In addition to Tar Sands, you have been following and researching fracking in Ohio and the surrounding states quite heavily. How has fracking affected our back yard?
KS: Between January and June in 2012, over 220,000 tons of drill cuttings (radioactive fracking waste) were taken from Pennsylvania to Vienna Junction landfill, which has a Toledo address but is just over the Michigan state line.
Why should this concern you, me? Drill cuttings and fluid contain Radium 226, 228 and Thorium, what are referred to as NORMs or Naturally Ocurring Radioactive Materials. NORM’s are not regulated in Ohio; that does not mean they are not hazardous.
Radium 226 has a half-life of 1620 years. According to Conrad Volz, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health: “…but the Marcellus [a type of shale formation] is unique. It’s highly enriched in radium isotopes and thorium. Cuttings from horizontal wells in the Marcellus should be taken to low-level radiological waste disposal sites.” Or as many of us think, not dug up at all. Toledoans should be concerned if not outraged.
Since these NORM’s are not regulated in Ohio, the landfill doesn’t have to do anything special with the drill cuttings. They expose their workers and open up the possibility that after it rains, some of these toxins can leach into groundwater.
SJ: In Toledo we sit on part of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world; it is a resource that we take for granted. How can fracking jeopardize our watershed long-term?
KS: Each frack job uses 2-5 million gallons of water. Water that at one time was fresh and clean is then dirtied with sand and toxic chemicals like diesel fuel. A third of that comes back as flow back and the rest will stay underground and possibly migrate to aquifers or come back up as they produce gas. Each well can be fracked multiple times. That is a lot of valuable fresh water that cannot be used for a very long time, if ever.
The toxic flowback water has to be disposed of. The head of ODNR’s injection well program (responsible for oil and gas regulation including injection wells) told me there is no proven contamination of ground water but he then admitted that there is no testing of water wells or aquifers around these wells. If you’re not looking for it, you’re not going to find it.
SJ: Do you feel that fracking regulations are strict and impartial enough to be deemed as safe?
KS: ODNR has disregarded public outcry over stricter regulations. ODNR stands to receive funds from the fees from thousands of fracking permits and will not push the industry away as long as ODNR’s programs depend on these funds. That sounds like a conflict of interest to me. I of course, as well as most of us in the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy, want fracking and injection wells banned period. They can’t be done safely and should be stopped.