Oberlin Protesters Look Prescient After Youngstown Fracking Earthquake


It’s easy to dismiss Oberlin College students for being idealistic lefties who fight the system while the rest of the free world watches football. But this time around, they look less like kooks and more like canaries in the hydraulic-fracturing mine.

On November 30, a contingent of Oberlin students became the first protesters of hydraulic fracturing in America to be arrested for their civil disobedience. The honor stems from their adventures at a work site in Youngstown, where seven activists tried to block the path of trucks carrying toxic wastewater away from a hydraulic-fracturing — known to friends as “fracking” — site. At the time, the news garnered little attention outside of environmentalist circles and this congenial rag.

But in December, Youngstown was rocked by its 10th and 11th earthquakes since March 17, including a 4.0 tremor on New Year’s Eve. The protesters insist the shocks are connected to the injection of toxic wastewater into area wells dug for that purpose.

And Columbus is feeling the jolt too: The Kasich administration — one of fracking’s biggest fans — shut down the well near the epicenter of the 10th quake, then announced a temporary halt to all injections around Youngstown.

According to the environmental news service EcoWatch, “Offices from the [Ohio Department of Nature Resources] believe the fracking wastewater pumped into the Youngstown-area well has been seeping into a previously unknown fault line in eastern Ohio, causing the seismic activity.”

It’s a big — if temporary — win for activists, who have been frustrated by Governor Kasich’s refusal to acknowledge that toxic water and other by-products of fracking can cause wee problems with Mother Nature.

More than anything, says Oberlin leader Ben Shapiro, the earthquakes proved useful in raising awareness of the problems surrounding fracking.

“You can feel an earthquake; you can’t feel your water being poisoned,” he says. “You can feel it when your house shakes on its foundation.”