Book cover

Ohio environmental groups and allies are alerting the public about the need to stop fracking methane gas and keep fossil fuels in the ground so to mitigate the worst effects of global warming and climate change.

These groups are promoting book signings throughout Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania this spring for Rolling Stone and DeSmog writer Justin Nobel’s new book investigating worker health harms and the environmental dangers of working in the gas and oil industry.

Nobel’s nonfiction book, Petroleum-238: Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop it (Karret Press, 2024) will be released April 24th in U.S. bookstores.

Nobel spent seven years traveling eastern and southeastern Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states across the country interviewing workers in the gas and oil industry about their work conditions, the radioactive toxic waste they were exposed to daily, and the health issues they eventually faced.

Several workers cited in his book have passed away, including two men who had been working at a fracking waste treatment plant located in northern West Virginia—one of these men died of stomach cancer, the other of an aggressive form of brain cancer; furthermore, the book relies on stunning worker accounts to reveal that at some fracking waste treatment facilities, the industry has relied on workers recently released from prison and often addicted to drugs to do the horrifically dangerous work of “treating” radioactive oilfield waste, yet granted these workers no appropriate knowledge on the dangers they are facing or protection against it.

Nobel’s 2020 Rolling Stone magazine story, America’s Radioactive Secret won the National Association of Science Writers award and inspired this book. His writing has led to lawsuits, public dialogue, and academic research, and has been taught at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

“Oilfield waste has been spilled, spread, injected, dumped, and freely emitted across this nation since oil drilling began in the U.S. in 1859,” said Nobel. “And contamination has been discharged—sometimes illegally, often legally—into the same rivers America’s towns and cities draw their drinking water from.

“This book is a story about worker justice and environmental justice. It’s an astonishing scientific story. We live on a radioactive planet, and oil and gas happens to bring up some of earth’s most interesting and notorious radioactive elements. Whether it’s a multinational company out of Paris, or the guy in rural Pennsylvania who stashed fracking waste beneath a courthouse, readers will be surprised at how deep this rabbit hole goes, and how close it may touch their homes, their health, and the natural places they cherish.”

Private lands in eastern and southeastern Ohio have been fracked for natural gas since the early 2010s, despite vehement protests of community members in Athens County. In early 2023, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law H.B. 507, which amended one word in an existing law to require fracking under Ohio state parks and public lands. Since then, environmental organizations like Save Ohio Parks have banded together to fight fracking under Ohio’s public lands.

Twelve of 22 book signings are set for Ohio, with others planned this spring for New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Michigan. Other book events are being planned this summer and fall in Colorado, New Mexico, West Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida.


Here is the Ohio schedule:

Wednesday, May 1, 2 p.m., Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., Athens, OH 45071.

Preorder books at Little Professor Book Center. Sponsored by Buckeye Environmental Network.

Wednesday, May 1, 6 p.m., Athens Community Center, 667 E. State St., Athens, OH 45071.

Thursday, May 2, 4 p.m., McKay Auditorium, Beeghly Hall, Youngstown State University, 250 Rayen Ave., Youngstown, OH 44503.

Friday, May 3, 12 p.m., Oberlin University, Room 101 Wilder Hall, (Oberlin Student Union), 135 College St. Free parking at the Mercy Allen Hospital parking lot (one block west of Wilder Hall).

Friday, May 3, 6:30 p.m., Fraternal Order of Eagles Hall, 696 Lafayette Road, Medina, OH 44356. Preorder books at Black Cat Books and Oddities. Sponsored by Sustainable Medina County/Kathie Jones.

Thursday May 16, 2-4 p.m., Cleveland Contemporary Museum of Art, 11400 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106. Organized by Tish O’Dell of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and moCa Cleveland, with musicians Pierson Keating and Karen LeBlanc.

Friday May 17, 7 p.m., West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River, OH, 44116. Musical book event with musicians Pierson Keating and Karen LeBlanc. Hosted by Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future (FaCT)

Saturday, May 18, 2-7 p.m. Korbel’s Family Farm, 665 Township Road 302, Hammondsville, OH 43930. Musical book event with behind-the-scenes discussion with Justin. Live Music, Tasty Bites Catering, easy parking, BYOB. Lawn chairs and blankets encouraged.

Musicians include Pierson Keating, Karen LeBlanc and other acts. Hosted by Pete and Micki Rockenhauser. RSVP by May 17:

Sunday, June 2, 5-9 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 93 W. Weisheimer Road, Columbus, OH. This event will be a “FrackStock” evening of music, food and fracking information featuring Nobel. Free admission and free food. Sponsored by Buckeye Environmental Network, GrassrootOhio, First UU Church of Columbus, Columbus Community Rights Coalition, Save Ohio Parks, Third Act Ohio, and Ohio Brine Task Force.

Monday, June 3, The Bookloft of German Village, 631 S. Third St., Columbus OH 43206.

Petroleum 238: Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop it can be ordered on Amazon; Barnes and Noble;; or other independent bookstores.

To host a Justin Nobel Petroleum 238 event at your neighborhood bookstore, university or community space, contact Karen LeBlanc at