Ohio bishops write to governor & legislature about fracking

The Episcopal Dioceses of Ohio and Southern Ohio sent a letter today to Ohio Governor John Kasich and state legislators regarding resolutions passed at both dioceses annual conventions addressing development of hydraulic fracturing in the State of Ohio.

Meanwhile, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake near Youngstown, Ohio, on New Years Day has caused the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to suspend operations of hydraulic fracturing operations at four sites.


A 4.0 magnitude earthquake in Ohio on New Year's Eve did not occur naturally and may have been caused by high-pressure liquid injection related to oil and gas exploration and production, an expert hired by the state of Ohio said on Tuesday.

Ohio's Department of Natural Resources on Sunday suspended operations at five deep well sites in Youngstown, Ohio, where the injection of water was taking place, while they evaluate seismological data from a rare quake in the area.

The wells are about 9,000 feet deep and are used to dispose of water from oil and gas wells. The process is related to fracking, the controversial injection of chemical-laced water and sand into rock to release oil and gas. Critics say that the high pressure injection of the liquid causes seismic activity.

Won-Young Kim, a research professor of Seismology Geology and Tectonophysics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that circumstantial evidence suggests a link between the earthquake and the high-pressure well activity.

The text of the Bishop's letter is here:

December 22, 2011

Dear Governor Kasich and Ohio Legislators,

In November 2011, the Episcopal Dioceses of Ohio and Southern Ohio passed resolutions at their Diocesan Conventions addressing the development of hydraulic fracturing in the State of Ohio. These resolutions called for the following actions:

That the EPA conduct a comprehensive, transparent, peer-reviewed study of the impacts of natural gas on water resources and the life-cycle impacts of fracking fluids
That a moratorium on high-risk, unconventional deep-shale gas drilling in Ohio until a study is completed by the EPA
That regulatory agencies conduct a comprehensive review and revision of Ohio’s regulatory framework in relation to the new technologies of high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing
That advocates be provided on behalf of landowners who are vulnerable to coercive fracking lease tactics

To-date there have been aggressive actions in the Athens, Cambridge and Uniontown areas to get Ohioans to lease their mineral rights to fracturing corporations. There has been no consistency in these leases to protect the health of Ohio citizens or minimize and recover the damage to the environment.

There are currently numerous documented cases of polluted water, abandoned drilling sites and significant damage to the eco-system in states where fracking is in full operation. Preliminary studies have associated the resultant waste water with contamination of land, defiling of ground water and incidents of respiratory difficulties.

The Episcopal Church has engaged geologists to determine if those recent occurrence of earthquakes (Arkansas, Virginia) in otherwise non-earthquake zones may be a result of the introduction of high-pressure fracking sludge causing a shifting of geological plates. Further study and investigation must be done to prevent any future and permanent damage to the environment.

In 2009 at the Diocese of Southern Ohio annual convention, a resolution was passed that stated:

Economic development strategies which depend on resource extraction are not sustainable and should be discouraged.
Economic development decisions should be made in a transparent process that includes public hearings.
Elected officials must be held responsible for the needs and concerns of their constituents.

We are calling upon the elected officials of the State of Ohio to put on hold additional issuance of fracturing permits until the concerns of scientists and Ohioans are addressed.

We have been entrusted with a rich and beautiful land and are commissioned by our Creator to be good stewards of the earth. We believe this responsibility requires that we understand fully the long-range consequences of our actions to the stability and health of our earth for future generations as well as our own.


The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth
Bishop of Ohio

The Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal
Bishop of Southern Ohio

Comments (3)

Thanks for posting, Andrew. The letter is dated Dec. 22, and I'm particularly proud of both bishops and of the diocesan conventions. The resolution was overwhelmingly passed in Southern Ohio in a room that was all over the political map. The more people know about fracking, the more they are opposed. As you know, I am serving in Athens, one of the communities referenced in the letter. Our City Council unanimously voiced opposition, though noting their limited options under Ohio law. This is threatening the livelihood of several of our parishioners in a region with lots of organic agriculture and tourism. It is also threatening our groundwater.

Bill: I actually passed it to Andrew after seeing it on your Facebook page!

What goes around comes around!

Thank you for your community in Athens for helping alert the nation of this problem.


The advocacy committee of the Diocese of Ohio deserves special congratulations. Had that group been less steadfast, you wouldn't be reading this statement.

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