For years, Energy In Depth has reported on how Ohio anti-fracking activists have tried to slow down first responders with added bureaucracy and misinformation campaigns based on dubious assumptions regarding regulatory exemptions. Meanwhile, Ohio oil and gas operators continue to lead in terms of streamlining information access for first responders with aggressive training and communication strategies. Those efforts are paying off, as first responders are reporting,
“[T]he companies will email us weekly updates of what’s going on in their company and locations. That way, in the event that something’s going on, we’ll have up-to-date information. They usually keep us pretty well informed.”
This first-hand report from Cumberland Trail Assistant Fire Chief Tim Hall is yet another example of how out-of-state Keep It In the Ground activists are misrepresenting the reality of what actually is occurring in oil and natural gas producing states. In fact, training and communication between the oil and gas industry and Ohio first responders has been ongoing for years and comes at no cost to the public, thanks to a bi-yearly fire academy hosted by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP). Last year marked the 15th anniversary of free training for firefighters, and to date the program has trained more than 1,400 first responders who have participated in the Responding to Oilfield Emergencies workshops. In fact, almost all of the volunteer fire departments across the state have participated in the free training.
The free fire academy training is vital, especially when you consider that more than 70 percent of Ohio’s fire departments are volunteer. The reason that the fire academy is free is because the Ohio Revised Code 1510 requires all oil and natural gas producers in the state to pay five cents per gross barrel of crude oil (including condensate) and a half cent per gross Mcf (thousand cubic feet) of natural gas. This is just one tax paid by oil and gas operators, the most significant being ad valorem or property taxes paid on production, which have yielded (to date) more than $45 million and also directly support local communities.
Here’s what some of Ohio’s first responders are saying about the free fire academy,
“It’s very pertinent to our area. We go out and fight these fires, and it’s very enlightening. … There’s so many gas well simulators. It’s probably one of the best in the Midwest.”
In addition to the training with OOGEEP, individual companies are continuing to reach out to local first responders for live exercises as well. Numerous upstream and midstream companies host live exercises at no cost to first responders and provide extensive hands-on training. More importantly, the exercises provide an open line of communication between local communities and companies who operate in their backyards.
Ironically enough, the Ohio Environmental Council has stated,
“Emergency responders have a huge responsibility to the public, and carry this responsibility bravely despite the risks. We should be striving to make their jobs easier, not putting barriers between them and the information they need to protect themselves and us.”
We agree! Which is exactly why Ohio’s oil and natural gas industry continues take steps to ensure that shale development can occur while protecting the health and safety of our people and our environment — and do so without creating unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.