by Michael Baughman, T.A.S.K. - Take Action Spread Knowledge , Non-Profit
My name is Mike Baughman and I am a recent graduate of Kent State University located in northeast Ohio. I acquired my bachelor's degree in sociology after spending my final year at the Stark Campus in my hometown of North Canton, Ohio to save some money on tuition. It ended up being one of the best decisions I've made thus far because it was the two most enjoyable, knowledgeable, and important semesters in my college career.
I met some special people in the spring semester of 2011 and joined a student group called T.A.S.K. (Take Action Spread Knowledge) that was created due to the current issue of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking". Me being a sociology major, I spent my fall semester taking senior level sociology courses, with one in particular called "Wealth Poverty and Power" that enabled me to go from August (not knowing almost anything about economics, our government, and other various issues) to December, frustrated and pissed off looking for an outlet to help in anyway possible. Or in other words, "I learned too much" and became fed up with the REALITY of so many issues and how our government seems to be taking advantage of the unaware as the top 1% keeps getting richer; which is slowly deteriorating classes from the middle on down.
I attended Powershift this past spring along with four other group members of T.A.S.K. to learn more about environmental issues and to help sustain our newly formed student group. I never thought in my wildest dreams that within four months after Powershift, our student group, TASK, is really making a difference in Stark County, Ohio in regards to protecting unaware citizens and our environment from natural gas extraction.
As I graduated in May, and the rest of the students who joined TASK finished their spring semester, we have done nothing but DO DAMAGE THIS SUMMER and make some serious noise in Ohio by informing, organizing, acting, and educating people of the risky realities of the entire natural gas extraction process from signing leases to detrimental environmental implications that are irreversable.
Right before the spring semester ended, after learning so much at Powershift we (TASK) screened Gasland immediately on campus. With only a few weeks time to promote the event, the five of us, were able to reach out to over 100 people who came to watch the controversial movie and encouraged a public speak afterwards in regards to any questions the public has.
In June, we held an Anti-Fracking Rally at Price Park, along side the Food and Water Watch, and were able to organize around 80 citizens to come to the event; however this time local popular radio stations, news papers, and other media outlets were in attendance that enabled us to get our name out that T.A.S.K. IS HERE TO PROTECT OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY; as we made the Akron Beacon Journal, the Canton Repository, and WHBC 1480 radio station.
Canton Repository Article - http://www.cantonrep.com/fracking/x1639217001/Anti-fracking-group-rallies-in-North-Canton
Akron Beacon Journal Article - http://www.ohio.com/news/stark-rally-protests-fracking-1.214936
Our direct action of informing the public and unaware citizens in various ways such as press releases, creating our own website, "Stop Fracking Ohio" facebook page, TASK facebook page, organizing rallies, and screening Gasland has enabled our student group to grow so fast that we technically cannot call TASK a student group anymore; acquiring more and more local citizens to join us in the fight against horizontal natural gas extraction.
Our most significant acheivement thus far occured on July 5th in Massillon, Ohio this past month. Two weeks prior to July 5th, I attended a city council meeting along with Renee Bogue, who attended our rally in North Canton at Price Park. She informed me just a day before the council meeting that Massillon was proposing an ordinance that would allow Ohio Valley Energy (responsible for the 2007 Bainbridge, Ohio disaster that lead to a house blowing up, contaminating over 40 families water supply, and even the local police department's water supply) over 50 acres to drill in a residential areas; even the PARKING LOT of a shopping center. At the city council meeting, Renee and I did as much as we could in the short amount of time we were given to speak, to really help the city council understand that the issue of fracking is beyond dangerous and has been proven in other states such as Pennsylvania and New York. Moreover, the chances that drilling would cause serious economic, environmental, and public health concerns were highly increased in a residential area (literally the "downtown" area of Massillon).
From that moment up until July 5th, I personally dropped everything I was doing and focused on issues in Massillon and how we could persuade the city council to turn down $50,000 from Ohio Valley Energy that would enable them to drill. I kept in contact with one of the council members who highly opposed drilling and I gave him as much information as I could; from the Cornell Study to government documents that revealed the chemicals placed in the fluid used to break apart the bedrock. Renee even went out of her way to buy a copy of Gasland for the council members to watch.
The week prior to the final reading of ordinance 73 (fracking), a "heated" debate broke out as I, along with more citizens of Massillon and Renne, listend to Ohio Valley Energy give their pitch to the city council. It was amazing to see that within a week, the council members were already asking the right questions as they peppered Ohio Valley Energy about public health concerns, the Bainbridge Incident, water contamination, truck traffic, and plenty other negatives associated with hydraulic fracturing.
Furthermore, it got so out of hand that I was personally threatened by a council member. Apparantley, a few of the "pro drilling" council members were a little weary of my presence as they tried to intimidate me by telling me first, that I couldn't publically speak because I am "not a citizen of Massillon", and one member specifically would "throw me out" if I didn't comply to their rules. This then, lead to other citizens becoming more enraged shouting "that's his constitutional right" in regards to not allowing me to speak.
So a week went by and, it's now July 5th, the night where the city council has to vote on the ordinance that would allow drilling in Massillon. I had prepared a speech and lead off the council meeting by simply asking them to practice empathy; asking them many questions like "Would you be willing to put a well pad a 150 ft. away from your home where you feel safe?" and reminded them that the dramatic meeting which occured a week prior to July 5th and how a few of the council members acted was "TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE".
A public official should never EVER threaten a citizen, especially during a council meeting. Moreover, I just tried to simplify my argument by telling them that if you want the public to feel confident in you, you need to instill some confidence in the public; URGING them to really listen to what citizens have to say because they were only in office because of them. And finally reminding them that public officials take an oath to SERVE THE PEOPLE. THE PEOPLE DO NOT SERVE YOU!!
Many other members of TASK were present this night, including our President Lilia Fuquen, Renee Bogue (citizen of Massillon) and our digital coordinator Elyse Hirsch. We all gave our speeches along with many informed and active citizens who were enraged that the council members were only motivated by money alone. Massillon citizen Kathleen Spencer said it best in an article published from the Massillon Independent:
“I don’t want it,” resident Kathleen Spencer said. “Are we going to sell our souls for a dollar, just so these people can drill out there? We don’t need it. ...We don’t want it in our neighborhood.”
After many long days and nights from researching to organizing citizens of Massillon, the ordinance was TURNED DOWN at a 6-2 vote and officially became TASK's FIRST WIN. We took all the information and strategies learned over the previous months from Powershift to independent research and made a stand against the most powerful industry in the world, enabling us to help protect citizens of Massillon. TASK made a statement against the oil and gas industry..."NOT IN OUR GARAGE!" (Cleveland Cavaliers own Dan Gilbert Tweeted after beating LeBron James and the Heat)
Just one event like this can spark major change as other communities are starting to step up in Stark County. Overall, the village of Hartville has passed an ordinance to ban fracking, North Canton has placed a moratorium on the issue, our recent victory in Massillon, and now Plain Twp.Trustees banned drilling in their township which is literally five minutes away from Kent State Stark. (link below)
To other student groups out there and similar organizations, this should give you some hope and confidence that you can make a difference in this world! Keep fighting the fight, stay positive, and bust your ass because good things will start to happen for you. I promise!
TASK, along with many American citizens, are sick and tired of the abuse and bullying by major corporations and our OWN GOVERNMENT. It's our turn to push back against the negligence! It's time to say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" It's time to make a stand!
And don't be fooled if you feel helpless or if you think that the industry we are challenging is too "powerful."
We have all the resources we need: OUR BRAINS, OUR HEARTS, AND EACH OTHER!
- Mike Baughman
T.A.S.K.- Take Action Spread Knowledge