Extreme environmental activist groups have been put on notice by Ohio’s law enforcement, due primarily to the activities of outside organizations coming into Ohio to disrupt oil and gas development. Authorities like the Ohio State Highway Patrol have begun to acknowledge that these groups’ actions are a threat to human health and safety, and as such are working to ensure they pose no threat to workers or the public in general.
As we first reported in the fall, Earth First! Climber’s Guild held a retreat near Athens, Ohio in order to train extreme activists with the climbing skills needed to temporarily disrupt oil and gas activities in Ohio, much like we saw earlier this month in New Matamoras. In the beginning, these exercises were little more than a stunt; we never figured they would actually carry out these sorts of activities in Ohio, a state where we have developed oil and gas for over 150 years. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when these groups put their practice into illegal action. Even more disturbing: we found out that Ohio is not isolated from these fringe groups infiltrating states in order to disrupt safety protocol, not to mention jobs and prosperity.
Earth First! and Appalachian Resist staged a dangerous display of activism a month ago in New Matamoras at a GreenHunter Class II storage site. The event brought out 100 activists dressed in Hazmat suits to demonstrate against the facility, all while a fellow member constructed a pole tied to equipment on site. In the end, they disrupted business activities for five hours and had 10 people arrested. Seven of them were from out of state.
Now that these groups have put their teaching into actions, they have not only gained attention from those working in the field, but also law enforcement. For example, Sgt. Greg McCutcheon with the Ohio State Highway Patrol recently said: “These are fringe groups and our Central Intelligence Unit is monitoring them.” That’s reassuring, to say the least.
Of course, this illegal act in New Matamoras is just the first in attempts to disrupt oil and gas development in Ohio. While this particular attempt was not violent, the authorities are not taking these actions lightly, and rightfully so. As Sgt. McCutcheon added:
“We have no reports of any violence so far but it is probably coming. We are asking that everyone be alert and aware and report anyone out of place at your facility.”
McCutcheon is referring to incidents in Pennsylvania, where residents have experienced a drive-by shooting at a well site, as well as an incident where a homemade explosive device was placed near a pipeline.
As these reckless attempts are being planned in the future, the extreme environmentalists should know they have been put on notice and their actions will not be tolerated in Ohio. Luckily we have state agencies taking these actions seriously and are asking those in the community to report any suspicious activity they see in the area.
To be clear, we at EID support and encourage a healthy public discussion about energy production, and we recognize that there are groups who oppose oil and gas development for a variety of reasons. Thankfully, most of these groups are also committed to civility and adherence to the law. In that sense, it’s tragic that a minority of activists think endangering public safety is the best way to advance their ideological cause. These sorts of activities are illegal, dangerous to the general public, and should be discouraged by all who are interested in a fact-based dialogue about oil and gas development in Ohio — or anywhere else, for that matter.