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Ten Fracking Protesters Arrested After Employees 'Held Hostage' in Ohio

Opposition to hydraulic fracturing flared up in Ohio this week as about 100 protestors stormed an office and a water handling facility in one Ohio town, while an oil and gas service company threatened to take its business elsewhere if another town set itself up in opposition to drilling.

The protestors' attack was launched at facilities operated by GreenHunter Energy Inc. in Ohio on Tuesday, causing a six-hour disruption that ended peacefully but resulted in the arrest of 10 protesters.

Meanwhile, an Ohio company that provides products and services for oil and natural gas drillers in the Utica Shale said it may decide against expanding its operations in Brunswick, OH, if the city council passes a resolution that advocates giving municipalities "home rule" powers over oil and gas drilling.

"Imagine a city that, for no good reason, becomes the poster child for anti-economic development at a level like I've never seen," Philpott Rubber Co. CEO Mike Baach said. "Are energy customers going to want to see us pulling up with a truck with that city name on it?"

Grapevine, TX-based GreenHunter said its employees at its facilities in New Matamoras, OH were "held hostage" by the protesters during the incident, which began at about 10:30 a.m. EST. Reports said the protesters stole keys and attempted to clog toilets at the company's offices. One protester erected a 30-foot pole and chained it to the fence of the water handling facility and a brine disposal truck. The protester then climbed and remained atop the pole for the duration of the protest.

About two dozen officers from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the New Matamoras Police Department responded to the raid, reports said.

According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, all 10 of the arrested protesters have been charged with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor, and were processed into the county jail. They range in age from 21 to 34, but only three were from Ohio. The protester who was reportedly atop the pole was also charged with resisting arrest, which is also a misdemeanor.

In a statement on Tuesday, GreenHunter said the protesters' actions "are subject to felony charges, which may include violations under the Anti-Terrorism Act...the company has hired legal counsel and plans to pursue all legal remedies available under the law against those individuals and organizations that were involved in today's illegal activities."

Appalachia Resist, an environmental group based in Ohio, said Wednesday that the arrested protesters were its members and that all have since been released on bail. On its website the group promised "future acts of resistance" to the oil and natural gas industry.

GreenHunter said its business operations were restored at 4 p.m. Tuesday and that there didn't appear to be any physical damage to its property or equipment. The company said its facility in New Matamoras only handles salt water from oil and natural gas wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; the facility doesn't accept or process hazardous waste.

In the other incident, the Brunswick City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on Resolution No. 4-13, which calls on the Ohio General Assembly "to repeal any and all laws that preempt local control over oil and natural gas extraction and associated risky industrial activity." Brunswick is located in Medina County.

Baach told NGI's Shale Daily that his company would not expand to accommodate the growing business of its new subsidiary, Philpott Energy & Transportation Co. Ltd. (PETCO), if the city passes the resolution. PETCO's list of products includes completion fluid, completion beads, friction reducer and viscosifiers. The company also deploys mobile chemical hydration units to drilling sites.

"There is no shale to drill in Brunswick," Baach said Thursday. "The Utica formation here just isn't thick enough to be productive. Our city council knows that, but they still want to pass an anti-fracking ordinance. But that just creates an anti-business environment here."

Baach said the company is sensitive to the issue because transportation laws require that its trucks be emblazoned with a placard listing the truck's home city and state.

"This is not an idle threat. The city can do what it wants, and it will do what it wants, but it's ridiculous. You work hard and you spend a lot of money on marketing. There is no more anti-marketing approach than to look like you're supporting somebody that is, for no good reason, anti-shale gas development."

Several grassroots organizations are lobbying the state government to grant local governments home rule powers, which they could then use to regulate oil and gas activities (see Shale Daily, Sept. 5, 2012). Nevertheless, an appeals court recently ruled in favor of a Utica Shale driller and against a municipality in a regulatory dispute (see Shale Daily, Feb. 8).

"We're just about far enough away from Carroll County, where the real drilling is going on, that companies like ours can locate, put up a warehouse and deploy from here," Baach said. "The explosive increases in rent that is right around the areas of development don't reach out this far. Yet we're an easy drive to the locations to service our customers.

"I would be out begging people like us to come here [to Brunswick]. These are good, high-paying jobs with quality people. We should be parental to business communities here. But some of these governments just don't get it."

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