By Bernhard Debatin
The Boston bombing and other such horrible events have shown that preparedness for domestic terrorism is a necessity. Therefore, one might think it wouldn’t be that bad if “Area officials undergo training to combat terroristic events,” as the Athens Messenger titled on December 11, 2013.
However, the choice of the simulated event, “a fake anti-fracking extremist group that was planning on launching a chemical attack on Ohio University’s Convocation Center” and that was running a “mock bioterrorism lab,” shows a cynical lack of judgment by the involved authorities. Such thoughtless scenario vilifies the anti-fracking movement as a whole and identifies it casually with terrorism, while it is in fact a non-violent and broad coalition of concerned citizens.
According to the report in the Messenger, “fracking was chosen because it is such a well-known topic of discussion.” The irony of this statement by Athens County 911 director and public information officer Dan Pfeiffer is hard to beat. It turns reality upside down. After all, it is the gas and oil industry that has a long track record of poisoning water, air, and soil with many well-documented spills, accidents, and failures—and also simply with the side effects of their normal operation.
Not the anti-fracking movement, but the oil and gas industry has a dark history of chemical pollution, from the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989), to the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill (2010), to the hazardous fire of the fracking chemicals producing Magnablend plant in Waxahachie, TX (2011), to fracking-related water pollution in Dimock, PA (since 2009) and Pavillion, WY (2011), to the uncontrolled release of methane into the atmosphere from fracking wells all over the nation. And recently, we learned that the reckless practice of injecting toxic wastewater into injection wells is a time bomb waiting to go off: “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted” said former EPA underground injection program engineer Mario Salazar in the investigative journal ProPublica (June 2012).
No matter whether the scenario was chosen intentionally to disparage the anti-fracking movement or because of pure thoughtlessness, the first responders and emergency management groups who participated in this ill-conceived scenario, with Dan Pfeiffer leading the way, owe a big apology to anybody who cares about a clean environment and who makes use of their constitutional right to protest the toxic fracking industry!