All posts by acfan

Reminder: Comments to OEPA on Oxford permit due Thursday 2-22: Demand another hearing once OEPA has done its homework and followed the law!

REMINDER: This Thursday, 2-22, is the COMMENT DEADLINE on OEPA’s National Permit to Discharge (NPDES) for Oxford Mining Company’s proposed Trimble Township strip mine on Johnson Run. The draft NPDES permit is full of inaccuracies and omissions, as documented by almost two-dozen speakers at the public hearing last week. Please write Director Butler and demand another hearing on the NPDES draft permit once Oxford and OEPA have done their homework and followed the laws! Mr. Butler must require Oxford to submit accurate and complete data, and OEPA must then evaluate this data and document this evaluation as required under Ohio and federal law. It would be an abuse of power for Mr. Butler to issue a final NPDES permit without allowing the public to weigh in on a meaningful draft. The current one is a sham!

The Oxford application, on which the draft NPDES permit is based, is rife with incomplete and inaccurate data. Oxford – and likewise OEPA!–completely omits any mention of the $2.5 million and years of labor spent by OEPA, ODNR, Rural Action, and federal partners to restore the West Branch of Sunday Creek Watershed. This is in direct contradiction to Ohio and federal anti-degradation and Clean Water Act laws, which require that social and economic investments in the watershed and COSTS of the mine to the community be acknowledged by a mining applicant and considered by OEPA. This glaring omission is but one of many, suggesting an intent by Oxford and OEPA to ignore the law and Ohio regulations in an attempt to get approval for a mining project Athens County as if its for the greater good.

This OEPA permit would allow Oxford to degrade the water quality of Johnson Run and the West Branch of Sunday Creek by allowing all the retained mine water sediment and other minerals from coal company “ponds” to be discharged into Johnson Run, which flows into the West Branch of Sunday Creek. The proposed mine is in a floodplain, and Oxford has yet to submit any FEMA-required plans to the county for approval. Flooding of the sedimentation “ponds” would make any treatment moot, since untreated mine drainage is likely to flow into the creek whenever the valley floods. OEPA revealed at the hearing that they did not even know about the 400 acres recently logged upstream of the valley, let alone account for the run-off from this upstream property in its required calculations for permit issuance. OEPA also has not received engineering plans for mining within the stream buffer zone of Johnson Run. Such plans must be approved by ODNR before OEPA can grant this permit.

From a dead stream twenty years ago, the West Branch now hosts 17 species of fish and has reached water quality goals and the designation of warm water habitat over 14 miles of the creek. Restoration of the lower third of the West Branch will be completely undone, and the watershed downstream therefore impacted as well, if Johnson Run is mined.

Furthermore, the economic benefits that Oxford and OEPA claim are not substantiated and are in fact based solely on statements by a company with a history of fraud and repeated violations. Oxford claims there will be an economic revival, although the jobs will be temporary, not necessarily go to Athens County residents, and not even result in spending in the county, due to the location of the mine and the destination of its dirty coal outside the county.

OEPA Director Craig Butler has issued a draft NPDES (National Permit to Discharge Elimination System) permit and a statement, which misrepresents the facts. He wrote: “I have determined that a lowering of water quality in Johnson Run and subsequently West Branch Sunday Creek is necessary. In accordance with OAC 3745-1-05, this decision was reached only after examining a series of technical alternatives, reviewing social and economic issues related to the degradation, and considering all public and appropriate intergovernmental comments.”

Yet these are the facts: The director reviewed the 40 public comments submitted, all against the mine. Athens County receives no tax dollars from the coal extracted. Oxford does not mention the 20 years of restoration work and millions of state federal and local dollars spent reclaiming the Watershed. Director Butler did not address Oxford’s lack of compliance with OAC 3745-01-05 (B)(3)(h), which requires: “To the extent that such information is known to those in the local community or is otherwise public, a listing and description of all government or privately sponsored conservation projects that have specifically targeted improved water quality or enhanced recreational opportunities on the water body affected by the activity.” Oxford does not mention the 20-year restoration project, therefore ignoring its profound social or economic value and all that value that will lost if this mine happens. Oxford’s application instead discusses how the mine benefits Oxford, stating that the proposed surface mine is “essential for marketing strategies and as such a key element in the financial success of Oxford Mining Company LLC.”

Under federal and state law, Director Butler has a duty to preserve the remarkable improvements in the West Branch. Instead, he proposes to destroy them. OEPA and Oxford have provided no reasonable justification for Oxford to be allowed to degrade water quality of the West Branch of Sunday Creek, and have ignored negative economic and environmental impacts and input provided. OEPA has provided no evidence of required socio-economic evaluations of costs and benefits to the community of this mine. We demand such an evaluation, which will clearly show the highly detrimental social and economic impacts of this mine, which make an NPDES permit illegal and contrary to the interests and voluminously stated concerns of the residents of Athens County. We request another hearing after this evaluation is completed, when inadequacies have been addressed and our questions have been answered, before OEPA considers issuing a final permit.

Written comments can be sent through Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Use this i.d. to identify the permit: ID # 0IL00168*AD.  Email to epa.DSWComments@epa.ohio.gov.

Thank you!

Pack the room at OEPA public hearing on coal mine permit!

Please come help pack the room at OEPA’s public hearing, Thurs., Feb. 15, at 6 pm at Burr Oak Lodge, near Glouster, on the proposed Johnson Run strip mine in Trimble Township, Athens County.  At the hearing, you can testify and tell OEPA not to issue a permit for Oxford to pollute Johnson Run.  Or just take notes to submit comments after the hearing. Or just come and help pack the room to demonstrate that this strip mine must not be permitted in our county! CARPOOLING available from Athens Community Center solar panels 5:00-5:15 pm to go to Burr Oak Lodge.  (If time allows, you might also be able to get in on the owl prowl happening at the Lodge that evening!**)

Oxford Mining Company is close to obtaining an Ohio EPA permit to allow mine water sediment and minerals from coal company “ponds” to be discharged into Johnson Run, which flows into the West Branch of Sunday Creek.  Oxford’s plans, currently supported by OEPA’s draft permit approval, will cause such severe negative impact that this part of the watershed may never recover.

The Sunday Creek Restoration Project is one of Ohio’s great success stories. It is a stellar example of collaboration and cooperation of citizens, community organizers, Ohio University, Rural Action, ODNR and OEPA, working together to reclaim one of the most degraded watersheds in our county.  $2.5 million has been spent and decades of work put into restoring the West Branch of Sunday Creek. From a dead stream twenty years ago, the West Branch now hosts 17 species of fish and has reached water quality goals and the designation of warm water habitat over 14 miles of the creek. Restoration of the lower third of the West Branch will be completely undone, and the watershed downstream therefore impacted as well, if Johnson Run is mined.

The proposed mine is in a floodplain, and Oxford has yet to submit any FEMA-required plans to the county for approval. Oxford has not submitted engineering plans for mining within the stream buffer zone of Johnson Run. The company is still contesting the road variance request from the county. Both the ODNR mining application and the water quality permit applications are full of these contradictions and inadequacies, just like the applications Oxford submitted in 2010 for the Joy Hollow mine project in Bern Township.

OEPA Director Craig Butler has issued a draft NPDES (National Permit to Discharge Elimination System) permit and a statement, which misrepresents the facts. He wrote: “I have determined that a lowering of water quality in Johnson Run and subsequently West Branch Sunday Creek is necessary. In accordance with OAC 3745-1-05, this decision was reached only after examining a series of technical alternatives, reviewing social and economic issues related to the degradation, and considering all public and appropriate intergovernmental comments.”

Yet these are the facts: The director reviewed the 40 public comments submitted, all against the mine.  Athens County receives no tax dollars from the coal extracted. Oxford does not mention the 20 years of restoration work and millions of state federal and local dollars spent reclaiming the Watershed. Director Butler did not address Oxford’s lack of compliance with OAC 3745-01-05 (B)(3)(h), which requires: “To the extent that such information is known to those in the local community or is otherwise public, a listing and description of all government or privately sponsored conservation projects that have specifically targeted improved water quality or enhanced recreational opportunities on the water body affected by the activity.” Oxford does not mention the 20-year restoration project, therefore ignoring its profound social or economic value and all that value that will lost if this mine happens.  Oxford’s application instead discusses how the mine benefits Oxford, stating that the proposed surface mine is “essential for marketing strategies and as such a key element in the financial success of Oxford Mining Company LLC.”

Ignoring his responsibility for stewardship of Ohio’s environment as well as the solid chemical and biological evidence provided to him by the collaborative Sunday Creek Watershed Group of a high quality, recovered West Branch , and with an apparent intent to prop up and perpetuate the existence of a poorly managed surface mining business, Director Butler simply rubber-stamped Oxford’s misleading application.  Under federal and state law, Director Butler has a duty to preserve the remarkable improvements in the West Branch.  Instead, he proposes to destroy them.

OEPA and Oxford have provided no reasonable justification for Oxford to be allowed to degrade water quality of the West Branch of Sunday Creek, and have ignored negative economic and environmental impacts and input provided, apparently writing off Athens County and its citizens as collateral damage so a mining company can profit at our great loss.

Please come to the OEPA public hearing on Thurs., Feb. 15, at 6 p.m., at Burr Oak Lodge near Glouster (carpooling available from the Athens Community Center solar panels 5:00-5:15) to speak or just be present. In 2011, over 100 people attended the permit hearing for the proposed Joy Hollow mine, an Oxford Mining project. The public prevailed then, and we can prevail again. We can make a difference on pollution of our streams and climate issues by stopping the assault by the coal industry in our county. Every victory is positive change for our planet!

Written comments can be sent until Feb. 22, 2018. Include ID # 0IL00168*AD. to identify the permit.  E-mail to epa.DSWComments@epa.ohio.gov, or mail to: Ohio EPA-DSW, Permits Processing, PO Box 1049, Columbus Ohio 43215-1049.

E-mail acfanohio@gmail.com for more information. Thanks for your support!

** The Owl Prowl starts with a presentation in the Burr Oak Lodge at 6:30 (with 1-2 owls), followed by Pat Quackenbush calling in owls nearby.

 

 

Ohio Sub HB 393: Call on Rep. Edwards to withdraw his support of this dangerous bill!

A very dangerous piece of legislation is currently being considered by the Ohio House. Rep. Jay Edwards supports HB 393, which would allow oil and gas waste to be “processed” for sale in stores for deicing Ohio roads, sidewalks, and even your own front steps. Athens City Council has already passed a resolution opposing the Senate version (SB 165). I urge all Mr. Edwards’ constituents to educate him on the disastrous implications for this dangerous bill.

Oil and gas waste can hundreds of toxic ingredients, many undisclosed (thanks to trade secrets and weak Ohio and federal regulation). Most are not subject to government regulation or health standards, although most have known health impacts. In one study by Endocrine Disruption Exchange of 980 products used in oil and gas extraction, 90% had at least one known health effect. Nearly half the products contained at least one chemical considered an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system, including development and reproduction, and which can have severe lifelong effects on sensitive populations, like babies and children, even at extremely low doses).

Oil and gas waste is more toxic even than the chemicals used to drill and stimulate wells, as authors of the report cited above documented: Health effects of forty chemicals and heavy metals studied from New Mexico oil and gas waste evaporation pits “produced a health profile even more hazardous than the pattern produced by the drilling and fracking chemicals.” In fact, “98% of the 40 chemicals found in the pits are listed on USEPA’s 2005 CERCLA (Superfund) list and 73% are on the 2006 EPCRA List of Lists of reportable toxic chemicals. Of the nine chemicals found to exceed the New Mexico state limits, all are on the CERCLA list and all but one are on the EPCRA List of Lists.”

There are no provisions in the bill to fully assess the composition or even do limited testing on an ongoing basis, even though oil and gas waste chemicals and toxicity vary from well to well and over time. The bill even sets out restrictions on government regulation of the very activities it would enable, restricting regulation to only very limited testing and infrequent monitoring of limited parameters. Safety would therefore be legally impossible to even strive for, let alone ensure. There is not even a requirement that testing be by an Ohio-EPA certified lab. With its provision that “[t]he chief shall not adopt rules or establish or impose additional requirements applicable to commodities governed by division (C)(9)(a) of this section,” the law makes it legally impossible to set higher standards.

Oil and gas waste is often highly radioactive and contains heavy metals. The bill does not provide any standards for monitoring of these hazards, let alone their removal. Processing waste to completely remove this contamination would obviously be technically very difficult (if even possible) and would certainly not be cheap. But since the bill doesn’t require such a standard, it’s obviously not expected to be met! Even evaluating the presence of these contaminants is very expensive. Who would pay for that? Oh, right, never mind, it’s not required and under this bill can NEVER be required!

Even processed conventional oil and gas waste can contain heavy metal and radiologicals. A recent Duke University study found radioactive materials at the bottom of three PA waterways from treated conventional oil and gas wastes. According to Duke University professor and a study author, Dr. Avner Vengosh, “Despite the fact that conventional oil and gas wastewater is treated to reduce its radium content, we still found high levels of radioactive build-up in the stream sediments we sampled.” A report on the study in Phys.org also explained, “The level of radiation found in stream sediments at the disposal sites was about 650 times higher than radiation in upstream sediments. In some cases, it even exceeded the radioactivity level that requires disposal only at federally designated radioactive waste disposal sites.” According to the US EPA, “Radium and radon are potent human carcinogens. Uranium may cause lung cancer and tumors of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues.” Uranium is higher in Utica than in Marcellus shale. Its dangers have been less studied.

When spread on the ground for deicing or dust control, radioactive dust can become airborne and be inhaled or deposited on crops or pastures, so that humans also ingest it from contaminated produce or animal products. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years. See also Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice’s letter to the Energy and Nat. Res. Committee on SB 165 on the extreme dangers of spreading conventional oil and gas waste. Please urge Mr. Edwards to reconsider his support for this dangerous bill, with its fatal implications for Ohioans’ health and wellbeing, ph: (614) 466-2158; rep94@ohiohouse.gov. Thank you.

Call Sherrod Brown today!

In spite of both science and appeals from nearly 100,000 people, Kathleen Atkinson, U.S. Forest ServiceRegional Forester, allowed the Dec. 13 BLM auction to take place. Center for Biological Diversity is leading a coalition of environmental organizations in filing their intent to sue the government for this illegal and very dangerous action.

Now BLM has announced another sale of land for fracking in the same Marietta Unit of Wayne National Forest, slated for March 23.

Please call Senator Brown’s office (202-224-2315, press #3 to speak to a real person) and demand he intervene. Senator Brown has stated publicly that the decision to frack public lands must be evaluated “carefully,” “responsibly, and with respect for the land and local tourism.” Since the USFS has NEVER EVALUATED fracking impacts on the Forest, let alone taken formal public input, this sale is illegal, irresponsible, and must be cancelled

Ask our elected official, Sherrod Brown, to act on his claims that he is concerned about climate and is concerned about the public having a voice in decisions that affect their National Forest.

Ask Senator Brown to demand that Regional Forester Atkinson withdraw the parcels. She is in charge of the Wayne and of the decision to allow it to be fracked. She can WITHDRAW the parcels, and the sale will be cancelled.

Ask Senator Brown to demand that Ms. Atkinson authorize a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the impacts of fracking, as the National Environmental Policy Act requires, and which has NEVER been done for the Wayne.  Such a study requires evaluation of up-to-date science and a meaningful public input process. Other Foresters have required EIS studies of other forests, which have determined that, as is obvious, fracking will have significant impacts on air, climate, water, and forest health.

Please also call Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson’s office (414-297-3765) and tell her the same: She is in charge of the Wayne and of the decision to allow it to be fracked. She can WITHDRAW the parcels, and the sale will be cancelled. She must do an EIS of fracking impacts. Our climate, forest health, and our communities’ sustainable economies are all at stake.

Senator Brown: 202-224-2315 (press #3 to speak to a real person)

Kathleen Atkinson: 414-297-3765

 

Conservation groups file intent to sue USFS and BLM re Wayne easing

From Center for Biological Diversity:

Conservation groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over invalid and outdated Endangered Species Act approvals of oil and gas leasing plans for the Wayne National Forest. The Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and Sierra Club are challenging the approvals for failing to consider the effects of fracking, white-nose syndrome and climate change on the endangered Indiana bat and other protected species threatened with extinction.

In December 2016 the BLM auctioned 719 acres of public land in the Wayne National Forest’s Marietta Unit in southeast Ohio, opening up the forest to large-scale, high-volume fracking of the Marcellus and Utica shales for the first time. The groups’ legal challenge aims to void this auction and halt fracking in the Wayne to protect the forest’s wildlife and water.

The groups assert fracking would industrialize Ohio’s only national forest, increase climate pollution, destroy the Indiana bat’s habitat, and risk contamination of water supplies that support endangered mussels and local communities.

“The Indiana bat is already over-stressed by white-nose syndrome and climate change. Summer bat detection rates in Ohio have declined by more than 50 percent since 2011,” said Wendy Park, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But instead of protecting this fragile species, the BLM and Forest Service are allowing the razing and pollution of important bat habitat in the Wayne for harmful fracking.”

“Pipelines, well pads, and wastewater pits destroy habitat and harm people and wildlife,” said Nathan Johnson, an attorney with the Ohio Environmental Council. “These impacts are real. In 2014, a frack pad fire and chemical spill near the Wayne forced the evacuation of local residents and killed tens of thousands of fish and mussels.”

The 2014 Monroe County well pad fire resulted in the contamination of a creek near the national forest. Wastewater and fracking chemicals spilled into Opossum Creek — an Ohio River tributary — killing 70,000 fish over a five-mile stretch.

“Fracking the Wayne National Forest in Ohio is like kicking someone when they’re down,” said Tabitha Tripp of Heartwood. “This land has been overworked for the last 200 years. Are we not rich and wise enough now to let a tiny percentage go wild? Declining species need that. We need that. Instead, we are witness to the betrayal of the public trust and we have no recourse but to sue.”

The groups have also filed an appeal with the secretary of the interior to challenge the December 2016 lease sale.

As of 2016, private fracking operators had nominated 18,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest’s Marietta Unit for leasing, setting up this land to be auctioned off in upcoming lease sales that BLM conducts quarterly. Another lease auction is scheduled for March 23. BLM is accepting formal “protests” from the public for this proposal to auction over 1,100 acres of the forest until Feb. 13.

“There has been statewide opposition to leasing our only national forest for hydraulic fracturing. Ohio ranks 47th per capita in providing public lands to our state citizens. People do not want to hike near frack pads, smell diesel fuel in a forest, or fear that streams and rivers are contaminated,” said Loraine McCosker, southeast Ohio resident and co-chair of the Forests and Public Lands Committee of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter. “Along with the impact to citizens who depend on our forest to provide clean air and water and recreational lands, this habitat is critical for many endangered and declining species challenged by climate change and other threats. In addition, Ohio is currently receiving great quantities of fracking waste from within Ohio and adjacent states which is then injected into class 2 injection wells. This proposed extraction will increase the waste created thereby increasing this burden.”

They’re at it again!

In spite of both science and appeals from nearly 100,000 people, Kathleen Atkinson, U.S. Forest ServiceRegional Forester, allowed the Dec. 13 BLM auction to take place. Center for Biological Diversity is leading a coalition of environmental organizations in filing their intent to sue the government for this illegal and very dangerous action.

Now BLM has announced another sale of land for fracking in the same Marietta Unit of Wayne National Forest, slated for March 23.

Please call Senator Brown’s office (202-224-2315, press #3 to speak to a real person) and demand he intervene. Senator Brown has stated publicly that the decision to frack public lands must be evaluated “carefully,” “responsibly, and with respect for the land and local tourism.” Since the USFS has NEVER EVALUATED fracking impacts on the Forest, let alone taken formal public input, this sale is illegal, irresponsible, and must be cancelled

Ask our elected official, Sherrod Brown, to act on his claims that he is concerned about climate and is concerned about the public having a voice in decisions that affect their National Forest.

Ask Senator Brown to demand that Regional Forester Atkinson withdraw the parcels. She is in charge of the Wayne and of the decision to allow it to be fracked. She can WITHDRAW the parcels, and the sale will be cancelled.

Ask Senator Brown to demand that Ms. Atkinson authorize a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the impacts of fracking, as the National Environmental Policy Act requires, and which has NEVER been done for the Wayne.  Such a study requires evaluation of up-to-date science and a meaningful public input process. Other Foresters have required EIS studies of other forests, which have determined that, as is obvious, fracking will have significant impacts on air, climate, water, and forest health.

Please also call Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson’s office (414-297-3765) and tell her the same: She is in charge of the Wayne and of the decision to allow it to be fracked. She can WITHDRAW the parcels, and the sale will be cancelled. She must do an EIS of fracking impacts. Our climate, forest health, and our communities’ sustainable economies are all at stake.

Senator Brown: 202-224-2315 (press #3 to speak to a real person)

Kathleen Atkinson: 414-297-3765

Two more actions you can take to help stop the Wayne NF fracking lease auction before Dec. 13

Please help us change Regional USFS Forester Kathleen Atkinson’s mind and pull the parcels and consent from the BLM before Tuesday’s lease auction.

No fracking our state’s only National Forest. Appalachia is not disposable!

1. Please send U.S. Forest Service Region 9 Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson whatever documentation you’d like her to read of  why fracking is harmful. Peer-reviewed research is especially important. Tell her this is new information — anything is new to her, since the Wayne has not evaluated fracking or reviewed the literature ever. Ask her to withdraw consent and to withdraw parcels slated for sale based on this new information.

Please request acknowledgment of your e-mail. Send to katkinson@fs.fed.us; cc Judi Henry: jhenry01@fs.fed.us. Atkinson has not evaluated fracking as required by law but is claiming that only “new information” will make her change her mind and withdraw consent.Visit acfan.org’s water, air and health page and other acfan pages for downloadable documents and links to peer-reviewed research and other documentation of fracking’s harms to climate, air, water, human and animal health, and local economies.

(Since the BLM EA cited USEPA fracking study’s initial 2015 report, you might also cite the controversy around its stated conclusions, which contradict the evidence gathered for the report. See EPA’s Late Changes To Fracking Study Downplay Risk Of Drinking Water Pollution, Marketplace 11-30-16.)

2. Please contact Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office (202-224-2315) to insist that he live up to his claim that he’s concerned about climate change. Send his aide a copy of whatever you send to Atkinson/Henry: joe_gilligan@brown.senate.gov. The senator can and should ask Ms. Atkinson to pull the parcels! Or Sherrod, who serves on the Senate Ag committee, can go straight to the head of USFS (part of Dep’t of Ag), Tom Tidwell to ask him to rein in the rogue Forester in Region 9.

Tell Kathleen Atkinson and Sherrod Brown: Stop Destroying Appalachia! Stop Sacrificing the Wayne! Stop the Auction!

Visit ACFAN’s Wayne pageresearch page and injection well/waste page and Save the Wayne and acfan’s facebook pages for more information and links; e-mail: acfanohio AT gmail.com.

See previous post for call-a-thon action. Calling is fine too but not instead of sending Ms. Atkinson the “new” [sic] information she needs!

 

Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson can and must pull the parcels: No Fracking the Wayne. Make calls today!

Please call U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson (414-297-3765) NOW, before the planned Dec. 13 online lease auction  that will open the Wayne to fracking! Ask her to withdraw consent and to withdraw the parcels slated for sale. She CAN do this (contrary to what her office staff may tell you), just as Wayne Supervisor Anne Carey did in 2011.  

If you leave a message with her staff, please tell them you’d like to send Ms. Atkinson evidence of NEW INFORMATION since 2006 on the dangers of fracking. Please request acknowledgment of your e-mail. Send to katkinson@fs.fed.us; cc Judi Henry: jhenry01@fs.fed.us. Atkinson has not evaluated fracking as required by law but is claiming that only “new information” will make her change her mind and withdraw consent. Feel free to send her any of the research linked on ACFAN’s research page or anything else you find important.  Since the BLM EA cited USEPA fracking study’s initial 2015 report, you might cite the controversy around the stated conclusions. See EPA’s Late Changes To Fracking Study Downplay Risk Of Drinking Water Pollution, Marketplace 11-30-16

And please call Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office (202-224-2315) to insist that he live up to his claim that he’s concerned about climate change. He should be asking Ms. Atkinson to pull the parcels too!

Tactic and phone contact sheet to print out available here: call-a-thon-to-feds-11-16. 

Background: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published a final Environmental Assessment (EA) and a FONSI (“Finding of No Significant Impact”[!!]) and announced an online lease auction of 1600 acres of Wayne land for fracking, the first set of many acres planned to be auctioned. Leases can be sold for as little as $2/acre! Fracking under or near the Wayne to get at oil and gas owned by the government will threaten drinking water supplies and climate, pollute water and air, turn our Forest into an industrial zone, and cause other significant environmental, public health, and economic impacts to our Forest and communities. By federal law, potentially significant impacts must be considered by the US Forest Service with full public input. This was not done.

If a Forest wants to undertake a significant action not considered by its Plan, it must evaluate potential impacts, including cumulative impacts, that may result on the Forest and surrounding human community, before irrevocably committing resources. Depending on the potential significance of the impacts, these evaluations may be through either an EA or the more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Only the latter requires public input. The Wayne has refused to do an Environmental Assessment, let alone an EIS, although activists have been pushing since 2011 for a supplemental EIS or a revision of the Forest Plan (and thus a full EIS), which is already overdue, since preparation can take 4-5 years. The FS and BLM claim that the Supplemental Information Report (SIR) produced by the Wayne in 2012 was in compliance with NEPA, which it explicitly is not.

Every document produced to date by the FS and BLM on the matter has been extremely shoddy, laughably so if not for the dire consequences. None is in compliance with NEPA requirements to consider up-to-date science and to take a “hard look” at potential impacts. It is clear that those in charge of analysis and decision-making have had a complete disregard for science and the extensive evidence and information provided by the public over the past five years. Contrary to Wayne National Forest Supervisor Tony Scardina’s claims, there is no law or directive that requires USFS to make public minerals available to suit the wishes of private industry or landowners who think their supposed profits take precedence over the climate and the region’s air, water, economy, and environmental and social health.

Anne Carey, Wayne NF Supervisor in 2011, pulled the parcels after community outcry. There is all the more reason to pull them in 2016! The consent is illegitimate and illegal (see pp. 30-31 of the CBD legal protest).  Atkinson can and must withdraw the parcels.

And please call Sen. Brown’s office (202-224-2315) and insist that Sen. Brown support our cause. He says he’s concerned about climate change but doesn’t seem to understand the impacts of fracking on climate or on the economic health of our region.

Visit ACFAN’s Wayne page for background materials and news.

 

Presidential directive impacts BLM/Wayne fracking evaluation

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released an important directive to federal agencies on August 1, the final guidance for considering climate impacts in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.  The document directs agencies to consider climate in all NEPA evaluations, including any in process and not yet finalized.

Now Buckeye Forest Council, Athens County Fracking Action Network, Heartwood, and Center for Health, Environment, and Justice have sent an e-mail to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials who are evaluating plans to frack the Marietta Unit of the Wayne, Ohio’s only National Forest. The directive should make the BLM and FS pause in their issuance of a final BLM Environmental Assessment (EA) and on the consent process, to be undertaken by USFS officials, that would follow issuance of this EA. The directive is clear: an EA in process should be re-evaluated “if this would inform the consideration of differences between alternatives or address comments raised through the public comment process with sufficient scientific basis that suggest the environmental analysis would be incomplete without application of the guidance, and the additional time and resources needed would be proportionate to the value of the information included.”

The many hundreds of public comments submitted to the Wayne and BLM documenting the significant risks of fracking to the climate and to SE Ohio’s water, air, and economy should make the agencies’ decision to follow the directive a no-brainer.

The groups’ e-mail states in part, “It is clear that this directive directly and immediately impacts your process and must be considered….Please note especially, echoing our many comments to you during the comment period, from p. 11 of the directive: ‘…a statement that emissions from a proposed Federal action represent only a small fraction of global emissions is essentially a statement about the nature of the climate change challenge, and is not an appropriate basis for deciding whether or to what extent to consider climate change impacts under NEPA. Moreover, these comparisons are also not an appropriate method for characterizing the potential impacts associated with a proposed action and its alternatives and mitigations because this approach does not reveal anything beyond the nature of the climate change challenge itself: the fact that diverse individual sources of emissions each make a relatively small addition to global atmospheric GHG concentrations that collectively have a large impact.’

“Also especially noteworthy (p. 9): ‘Consistent with NEPA, Federal agencies should consider the extent to which a proposed action and its reasonable alternatives would contribute to climate change, through GHG emissions, and take into account the ways in which a changing climate may impact the proposed action and any alternative actions, change the action’s environmental effects over the lifetime of those effects, and alter the overall environmental implications of such actions.’ (emphasis added)

“Also (p. 13): ‘In order to assess effects, agencies should take account of the proposed action – including “connected” actions– subject to reasonable limits based on feasibility and practicality. Activities that have a reasonably close causal relationship to the Federal action, such as those that may occur as a predicate for a proposed agency action or as a consequence of a proposed agency action, should be accounted for in the NEPA analysis.’ Regarding any further consideration by the USFS of its apparent plan to consent to lease: Clearly a consent to lease predicates ghg emissions that must be considered in the EA.

“And p. 15: ‘When conducting the analysis, an agency should compare the anticipated levels of GHG emissions from each alternative – including the no-action alternative – and mitigation actions to provide information to the public and enable the decision maker to make an informed choice.’ (emphasis added)

“p. 21 addresses a subject that commenters have addressed with you extensively: ‘For example, a proposed action may require water from a stream that has diminishing quantities of available water because of decreased snow pack in the mountains, or add heat to a water body that is already warming due to increasing atmospheric temperatures. Such considerations are squarely within the scope of NEPA and can inform decisions on whether to proceed with, and how to design, the proposed action to eliminate or mitigate impacts exacerbated by climate change.'”

For examples of comments submitted to USFS and BLM regarding fracking the Wayne, visit acfan’s Wayne page.
For a summary and analysis of the directive, see priceofoil.org.

 

Athens County Commissioners will host public hearing on Wayne/BLM frack plans

Since Wayne National Forest Supervisor Tony Scardina has stated that he will not hold a public hearing in Athens County, Athens County Commissioners have agreed to host a public hearing on Wayne National Forest and BLM plans to frack the Forest.

WHEN:  Tuesday evening, June 28, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Athens Community Center
WHAT: Public Hearing

Hosted by Athens County Commissioners, t
he hearing will allow members of the public to sign up to give an oral presentation, 2 minutes, max. Longer written  comments will also be accepted. If you can’t attend, you can send comments (use subject line: Wayne comments) to the Commissioners at jsikorski@athensoh.org.
Wayne National Forest Supervisor Tony Scardina has been invited to attend. Comments will be submitted to the BLM and Wayne to be entered into the public administrative record.
Please tell Tony Scardina: DO THE RIGHT THING. NO CONSENT! 
 
Important information for those wishing to speak or to contact Mr. Scardina directly (
phone 740-753-0880 or e-mail
ascardina@fs.fed.us): In spite of his claims to the contrary, Mr. Scardina has the authority and the responsibility to WITHHOLD CONSENT to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to auction off Wayne land for oil and gas leasing. Given the highly significant impacts of opening the Wayne to fracking and the extremely inadequate, highly flawed Environmental Assessment just conducted, Mr. Scardina must withhold consent.

Fracking the Wayne has NOT been thoroughly studied as federal law requires. Please speak to your concerns about fracking in our region (climate, waste production, water use, air pollution, economic impacts, etc. etc.) and tell Tony Scardina not to shirk his clear legal and ethical responsibility to say NO to the BLM and to fracking.

Like Anne Carey before him (the Wayne Supervisor in 2011 when local opposition resulted in Ms. Carey withdrawing Wayne consent for the BLM lease sale scheduled for December that year), Mr. Scardina’s sign-off is required for Forest Service consent. Like Anne Carey before him, he also has the power to refuse and block consent. He then can either authorize a full SEIS (supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) or wait until the next Forest Plan is conducted and do a thorough analysis of fracking within that process. Either way, he MUST wait until fracking has been fully evaluated with complete up-to-date research data and full public input , as required by NEPA, before considering fracking anywhere on the Wayne.

Please tell Tony Scardina: DO THE RIGHT THING. NO CONSENT! 

See previous posts and ACFAN’s Wayne page for background information.