Fracking and Farmland: Dan and Kathy Phillips Tell Their Story
In 1985, Dan and Kathy Philipps purchased a beautiful and historic lot of land in Leroy Township in Lake County. After raising two children and sending them to college, the Philipps were ready to start farming. In 1995, Dan and Kathy opened their pick your-own blueberry farm—Hollyberry Farm.
As community-minded individuals, they kept the property open and set up an honor system payment jar, allowing friends and neighbors to stop by and pick berries at their leisure.
Dan and Kathy take pride in the level of trust they have built with their neighbors. Today, however, the Philipps fear that their strong, rural community and the integrity of the land, on which their 400 blueberry bushes stand, is threatened by area fracking.
Fracking and Community Health
Kathy and Dan first learned about fracking shortly after becoming members of a small social justice organization, Faith Communities Together (FaCT). A fellow FaCT member suggested they watch the movie Gasland, a documentary film that examines the dangers of fracking. Around the same time, oil and gas companies began holding public meetings in the community about fracking and leasing opportunities.
"It felt like a gold rush," Dan recalled, “where the companies framed the issue as an economic boosting opportunity to farmers in the area and framed themselves as an environmental group.”
Dan and Kathy were already aware of the dangerous mixture of chemicals needed in fracking, and knowing that the industry wanted to drill in their area, they began to see what regulations were in place to protect Ohioans. What they found was disconcerting. Current state and federal law place few restrictions on oil and gas companies and allow companies to invoke “trade secret” protection that prevents them from having to fully disclose the precise cocktail of chemicals they use.
Fluids used in fracking can contain hundreds of dangerous chemicals including benzene; methane; radioactive materials, such as strontium, uranium, and radon, and heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, barium and arsenic. These chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health impacts affecting the endocrine, cardiovascular, immune, nervous, and respiratory systems. The waste water containing these chemicals is spread on Ohio roadways as a de-icer, pumped into injection wells, or sent to public water treatment facilities.
As a survivor of thyroid cancer, Kathy is particularly sensitive to her environmental surroundings. According to her doctors her cancer was likely a result of environmental exposures during her childhood.
As the couple realized that many residents were signing leases and the township trustees were not discouraging them, Dan and Kathy began to take action. They used their own resources to print and mail postcards inviting neighbors to meetings to educate them on the potential dangers of fracking and to work with local government to protect their community from the impacts of fracking.
The Philipps now live less than a mile away from two Class II Injection wells, which were established with no local input during the permitting process. Over 12 million gallons of fracking waste, which include carcinogens, have been injected into these wells.
That’s why they are asking their fellow Ohioans to join them in demanding that lawmakers adopt stronger regulations on the fracking industry that would protect the health of Ohioans and give local governments the power to make decisions that are right for their community.
What You Can Do
If enough Ohioans speak up, we can make a difference. Current oil and gas laws prioritize corporate interests over the rights of property owners, the health of Ohioans, and the ability of local governments to make choices about their communities. Help Kathy and Dan and other farmers by taking action today!
Step 1: Send a letter to Governor Kasich and your state legislators. Urge them to establish strong regulations on the fracking industry.
Step 2: Schedule a meeting with your state legislators.
Step 3: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help educate your community and local decision-makers about the risks of fracking.
To learn more about fracking and farmland, click here.
Are you a farmer impacted by fracking that would like to share your story? Click here.
To find out how to get involved and help protect Ohio’s farmland from fracking, contact MacKenzie Bailey, Policy Program Coordinator, by emailing email@example.com or calling (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.