A March 9 fossil fuel extraction tour of Southeastern Ohio, guided by area residents included Dennis Kucinich, candidate for governor, who requested the tour to gain a firsthand look at oil and gas development in the area. The tour also offered the candidate an opportunity to speak with local residents who have been affected by fracking.

Many fracking and coal mining sites were visited in Belmont, Noble, Monroe and Guernsey Counties including the Exxon-owned XTO Schnegg well site near Powhatan Point that exploded February 15th and was recently capped after leaking for 23 days. The tour was organized by Columbus Community Bill of Rights, Ohio Allies, and Guernsey County Citizens Support on Drilling Issues.

The tour was led by Jill Hunkler of the Barnesville area and Kerri Bond of the Senecaville area. Both have been negatively affected by the oil and gas infrastructure near their homes and were glad to share their stories with those on the tour.

Kucinich said, "I talked to a woman who lives in this area and she told me there was a chemical film on their homes, cars, and on their land. They don’t want to grow any food this year because they’re worried there could be poison in the soil."

Residents also expressed their concern to Kucinich regarding the potentially negative health impacts from the lengthy exposure of toxins from the leaking well.

Witnessing the many water lines servicing frack pads throughout the countryside, Kucinich stated: "Fracking uses enormous amounts of water. On average, it takes 11,000,000 gallons of water to frack one well. When you consider that in some of these counties they’re building thousands of wells, that means not millions, but billions of gallons of fresh water will be permanently contaminated and removed from the hydrologic cycle."

"This is happening right at the time when our water resources are increasingly scarce globally. It is time for us be asking the question: What do we want, water or oil and gas? Why are we being put in a situation with energy policies, where we are told we have to sacrifice water?"

"The oil and gas industry is syphoning water out of reservoirs, rivers and streams and often paying a minimum, if anything at all, for the water. This water is the basis of life, but our lives are being put at risk for oil and gas here in southeastern Ohio." Kucinich added.

Mr. Kucinich was joined on the tour by his wife, Elizabeth and several reporters, including one from the Washington Post.

Also participating was Dr. John Stolz, Director of Environmental Research and Education at Duquense University, who has sampled and analyzed water samples taken near oil and gas sites for six years in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Stolz is the Scientific Lead, for The American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange(TEX) Project that has been launched in southeastern Ohio. Jill Hunkler will be the Community Lead in the TEX project. She and Dr. Stolz work together with the community to establish a low-cost and sustainable environmental monitoring program, in the face of shale development.

Ted Auch of FracTracker Alliance, John Morgan of Raven Rocks, Greg Pace and Bill Lyons of Columbus Community Bill of Rights also took part in the tour.

At the tour’s conclusion Mr. Kucinich said, "As Governor, I will fight to keep the big oil and gas companies from poisoning our children and families. Ohio lawmakers cannot continue to sweep these families' human rights under the rug. Clean air and water are non-negotiable rights for ALL Ohioans."

Kucinich is a Democrat candidate for governor in the May 8 primary election. He is a former mayor of Cleveland, served as an Ohio State Senator, and was U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District from 1997 to 2013.