BY: SINEAD MULHERN
James Osborn, a farmer from Nebraska recently turned up at a Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission meeting to talk about a proposal for fracking waste water.
The issue is about whether or not to turn an inactive oil well in Sioux County into a disposal well for fracking water. The commission has 30 days from the meeting to approve or reject the proposal. That means, they have not yet announced their decision.
The public was invited to make comments during the meeting. Seats were provided for a maximum of 25 members of the public, says a press release from the event. Each speaker was given a three-minute window to talk. James Osborn was first.
He started his speech by introducing himself. He said he’s been employed by the oil industry before and has built pipes all over the U.S. But he has a problem with the proposal.
“Nebraska is unique because we have a water source,” he says. “Our economy runs on water. That’s what we have is this beautiful clean pristine drinking water,” he says while pouring clear water into cups. Then, he pulls out a cup of fracking waste water and pours that into the cups on top of the clean water.
“My question is, would you drink this?” he asks, to which the board replied that they could not comment.
But Osborn doesn’t stop at that. He said his answer would be no. He doesn’t want to drink water that could contain fracking chemicals.
“So I don’t want this in the water that will travel across this state,” he says. “If we spill something on top of the ground here, the water on the top of the ground travels about 6 miles per hour. 144 miles per day. In three days, it’s going across the state of Nebraska. There is no doubt there will be contamination,” he says adding that people need to know what is in their water. Especially before they drink it.
Members of the audience eye the three cups of brown sludge that sit on the table. Since Osborn has spent time in the oil industry and has family who work on fracking projects, he knows industry chemical formulas that go into the water. So the sample that he poured into the cups: he mixed it himself that morning he says.
When the timer goes off, Osborn thanks everyone for the opportunity to speak. He picks up his notes and water bottle but says he’s leaving the cups where they are. They sit there for the rest of the meeting.
The Nebraska farmer certainly took his complaints a step farther than most. Many would have simply stood in front of the committee and voice their concerns. But with a process as harmful as fracking, it doesn’t hurt to speak out loud.
Many people who have homes located near fracking sites have ended up with their homes poisoned from gases. And recently, researchers proved that several mini earthquakes were caused by fracking. The procedure which extracts natural oils from underneath the earth’s surface is invasive— that’s something that’s hard to argue.
According to a recent article, researchers studying the relation between earthquakes and fracking explained that the process was the cause of 109 small earthquakes in Ohio. That’s because when waste water was injected into a well it raised the water pressure underneath the rock.
In just a three-minute presentation, Osborn put a lot of attention on the harms that come from fracking projects. He garnered attention from the state of Nebraska but also internationally.
But as he said in his closing comments, sometimes it’s “the power of one.”