All posts by acfan

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to sue the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over invalid and outdated Endangered Species Act approvals of oil and gas leasing plans for the Wayne National Forest.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.

Formal protests to the BLM must be postmarked or faxed by Feb. 13, 2017 (no e-mail protests will be accepted) and must include parcel numbers and why these parcels in particular should not be leased. BLM rejected all protests of the Dec. 2016 sale. Nevertheless, Center for Biological Diversity and its coalition partners will submit a formal protest. You are welcome to submit one too. See the BLM lease sale document for instructions and see CBD’s previous comments on behalf of ACFAN and Buckeye Forest Council for talking points.

Whether or not you file a formal protest, we encourage you to 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.

 

 

Activists to feds: extend comment period and hold public hearing on fracking the Wayne

Organized by Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), representatives of eight grassroots environmental groups held press conferences on Wednesday, first at Wayne National Forest Headquarters and later in downtown Marietta. Speakers from Torch Can Do, Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Sierra Club, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Green Sanctuary of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Wayne Oil and Gas Organizing Group, and ACFAN called for an extension of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) comment period and a public hearing on BLM/Wayne plans to open the Wayne to deep-shale, high pressure horizontal drilling and fracturing (“fracking”).

Heather Cantino of ACFAN stated, “The BLM as a federal agency is charged with involving the public in such an important decision as opening our Forest to fracking. Fracking was not in the 2006 Wayne National Forest Plan so must be fully evaluated with full public input, according to federal law. I’ve spent 8 hours trying to decipher the BLM’s so-called Environmental Assessment (EA) and so far find it to be gobbledegook.” She cited a couple of examples: “They cite an unpublished Masters’ thesis (Fletcher 2012, funded by BP) that says ‘small spills are more common than big spills’ and then (mis)use this meaningless statement to say that they don’t need to consider the risk of spills! Water contamination from drilling with toxic chemicals, as Ohio allows, through unmapped aquifers? Well failure? Waste injection? Truck accidents? Blow-outs? Not considered. It will take me many more hours to figure out if there’s any science in this document. So far I can’t find any.”

Cantino added, “We also can’t expect everyone to read these confusing documents and make sense of them by themselves. We need a public hearing so that the public can share its extensive knowledge of the issues and our various attempts at understanding these confusing and consequential documents –– with one another, with our community, and with federal officials. We must then have time to write meaningful comments.” She concluded, “Tony Scardina, it is up to you to support our request for an extension and a public hearing so that you can do due diligence in evaluating this highly significant action being proposed for our Forest under your watch!”

Loraine McCosker, co-chair of the Forests and Public Lands Committee of the Ohio Sierra Club and member of Appalachian Ohio Sierra Club, said, “Let us be very clear to the USFS and the BLM. We are facing climate disruption, and this proposed leasing of the Marietta unit of the Wayne will exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions. To say it will not is not based on science and discredits the Wayne administration as well as the BLM.”

McCosker also addressed fracking’s production and disposal of large quantities of toxic, radioactive waste. “This waste is regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Ohio and not the USEPA as many other states. As a result, this has created a dumping ground in Ohio. In 2015 the state received almost 29 million barrels or over 1.2 BILLION gallons. Athens county received over 4 million barrels, (almost 169 million gallons) while Washington county received 2.2 million barrels (almost 93.6 million gallons, and adjacent Muskingum county 2.8 million barrels or almost 119 million gallons. Fracking in the Wayne will increase this waste and the probability of water contamination and earthquakes, increase truck traffic and further impact communities adjacent to these wells who have no input into whether they would like this well in their community.”

Loran Conley, member of Torch Can Do! and resident of the Coolville area, which contains both the Atha and K&H injection well facilities, where K&H brings in more out-of-state waste than any other in Ohio, stated:

“I already personally experience the highly significant impacts caused by fracking and its waste. Having no access to a public water supply, I have already spent $1,000 in the past 2 years, having my 3 private water wells tested for contaminants- although we don’t even know what to look for. There are also:

  • air emissions of highly toxic chemicals into my community 24 hours a day,
  • truck traffic with loads carrying highly toxic, radioactive waste,
  • truck accidents and spills of this waste happening throughout our state and region regularly,
  • the likelihood of my drinking water being or becoming contaminated from these spills and the millions of gallons continually being pumped under my community at high pressures and being forced to go who knows where underground,
  • and the economic and emotional costs to me and my community from all this poisoning of our uncharted aquifers.”

Conley concluded, “Since the FONSI, the ‘Finding of No Significance,’ was supposedly based on this EA, the EA is clearly way off base or maybe entirely worthless. We know – I know ­– there are significant impacts. The BLM has clearly not evaluated them or they could not propose a FONSI.”

Also speaking were Rebecca Phillips and Bill Ambrose of MOVCA, Andrew Clovis of OHVEC, Bern Township Trustee Roxanne Groff and Andrea Reik, both of ACFAN, and Caitlyn McDaniel of Buckeye Forest Council. All discussed the “highly significant risks of fracking,” the lack of protection by the state and federal government of current oil and gas activities, the obvious inadequacies and illegality of documents that do not acknowledge, let alone assess, these risks, and the need for adequate public input.

Phillips stated, The Environmental Assessment itself notes “contribution to global climate change” as a possible long-term effect of fracking in the Wayne. A recent report from Department of the Interior and the General Accounting Office (blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2016/january/nr_01_22_2016.html) noted that stronger rules for methane releases were needed, as the Bureau of Land Management’s current guidelines were “inadequate.” On May 12, EPA issued a proposed new methane emissions rules. Given EPA’s just-released proposal and the inadequacy of BLM’s current guidelines, leasing drilling permits in the Wayne National Forest are a bad idea.”

Clovis concluded his impassioned plea to protect the Forest by saying, “I would rather hear the whip-or-will call from its home in a National Forest, than hear the sounds of hydro-fracking. I imagine most tourists to our local National Forests feel the same way. Approximately 650 billion dollars are generated and funneled into local economies by our National Forests. Thus this questionable gamble for money may end up costing a fortune in lost tourism revenue, and costing an untold, irreplaceable, and sustainable prosperity in lost biodiversity and climate devastation.

Groff stated, “We must all insist on an extension of the public comment period and a public hearing, which the BLM is allowed to grant as their responsibility to all citizens for the most robust public involvement, and which is required by federal law for major federal actions that may significantly affect the forest and human environment. To say that fracking our Forest will not have significant impacts is preposterous.” Groff then held up a horse manure to demonstrate what she really thinks of the BLM documents and their conclusions.

Andrea Reik summed up the issues and concluded, “We the public are entitled to a public hearing to clearly raise issues, present recent research, dispel the myths of fracking’s economic benefits to communities and describe the environmental, social, economic and health costs of fracking to our communities. In a world facing significant effects of climate change, a world where almost 200 world leaders, including President Obama, have made a commitment to reduce methane emissions, consideration by the BLM and Forest Service of opening our Forest to fracking is outdated and unbelievable. It is up to the citizens to say NO! and to demand our rights and concerns be heard.”

URGENT: PLEASE WRITE THE BLM AND REQUEST AN EXTENSION OF TIME TO COMMENT ON PLANS TO FRACK THE WAYNE NATIONAL FOREST, AND PLEASE REQUEST A PUBLIC HEARING!

The Bureau of Land Management has published an “Environmental Assessment” and a FONSI (“Finding of No Significant Impact” [!!]) on its plans to lease tens of thousands of acres of Wayne land for fracking. Although the BLM claims that there won’t be surface disturbance on Wayne land, this cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, fracking near the Wayne in order to get at oil and gas owned by the federal government under the Wayne will contribute significantly to climate change, threaten drinking water supplies, industrialize the landscape, and cause air emissions and other significant environmental, public health, and socio-economic impacts to the region. By federal law, these impacts must be assessed with public input, and yet the BLM claims there will not be significant impacts and is providing only ~30 days for comments on the 100+ page document. The comment period was scheduled to close on May 29 – Memorial Day weekend (sound familiar – like ODNR having a comment period over the December holidays??), which has recently been corrected by BLM to end May 31, the first business day after the holiday. Their assessment and this short comment period are clearly inadequate and illegal, since they do not provide for meaningful public input as required by NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act)!

Please write the BLM and cc Wayne NF Supervisor Tony Scardina and Regional USFS Supervisor Kathleen Atkinson and request an extension of time to comment on their plans to frack the Wayne. And please request a public hearing! Sample letter below! They are starting with the Marietta unit to defuse Athens County objections, but opening ANY of the Wayne to fracking is illegal, dangerous, and opens the door to fracking everywhere on the Wayne.

The EA and other documents are at https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/lup/lup_register.do Search under NEPA project # DOI-BLM-Eastern States-0030-2016-0002-EAPlease include this project # in your comments and e-mail to blm_es_comments@blm.gov, cc: ascardina@fs.fed.us and katkinson@fs.fed.us or fax to (414) 297-4409, attn: Kurt Wadzinski. (NOTE: Comments, including personal information, may be made public. While you can ask the BLM to withhold identifying information, the BLM claims it cannot guarantee confidentiality. “Submissions from organizations, businesses, and individuals identifying themselves as representatives of organizations or businesses will be available for public review.”)

Sample letter: Dear Mr. Wadzinski, Forest Supervisor Scardina and Regional Forester Atkinson:

I request an extension of the public comment period for at least 60 more days beyond May 29 2016. It took the BLM 3 months to prepare this document and because it is 113 pages it will take the average citizen at least 90 days to review and respond accordingly. The BLM also must have a public hearing because the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 as amended requires federal agencies to analyze their actions in a decision-making process open to public review and where responsible officials take a “hard look” at and disclose the potential environmental effects of their actions. Your FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impacts) claims that there are NO environmental impacts that can be determined at this time. We, the citizens, must have the opportunity to state for the record our immediate and future concerns about this EA draft. It will be in the best interest of all parties involved in this proposed action for the BLM to use every tool and opportunity to involve the public to the greatest extent, for however long it takes. You have the discretionary power to do this. It would be an abuse of that power not to do so.

I will have more comments on the EA when I have reviewed it. This will undoubtedly take more than 20 more days to do a thorough review, which you certainly would want a citizen to do for you to comply with NEPA in your leasing decision.

If you want to submit some comments on any of the EA that you can manage to wade through and comprehend (good luck!) by May 31, please preface your comments with a statement such as:

THIS IS AN INCOMPLETE ASSESSMENT OF THIS EA. I NEED MORE TIME TO DO AN ADEQUATE REVIEW OF THIS EXTREMELY CONFUSING AND SEEMINGLY NONSENSICAL DOCUMENT, WHICH DOES NOT SEEM TO BE AN UP-TO-DATE SCIENTIFICALLY GROUNDED ASSESSMENT OF ANY OF THE SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS THAT ARE HIGHLY LIKELY FROM FRACKING UNDER AND NEAR THE WAYNE.

 

U.S. Coast Guard retreats from rulemaking on frackwaste barging

On February 22, front line community groups throughout the Ohio River basin received notification that the U.S. Coast Guard has determined that no new rules are needed to barge shipments of toxic, radioactive hydraulic fracturing waste. The Coast Guard instead decided to proceed using 40-year-old regulations that fail to address unconventional oil field waste from hydraulic fracturing. Fracking wastes contain such toxic chemicals as benzene and are laced with radioactive materials like water soluble radium-226, which is linked to leukemia and bone cancers. The Coast Guard will instead allow shipment of waste fluids from hydraulic fracturing to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The proposal being considered by the Coast Guard would have required new rules and guidelines to transport highly flammable, explosive hazardous waste on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to currently undisclosed locations.

Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney for the Fresh Water Accountability Project, was blunt, “This is disastrous. The Coast Guard proposes to regulate shipment by shipment, and they will do no such thing. They have very limited scientific staff, the lab testing of cargoes will not become Coast Guard records (if they do testing at all), and the information will remain the proprietary property of the shipper. The Coast Guard backed down and accepted an alternate means of classifying the shipments based on an oil and gas waste cargo definition that was implemented decades before horizontal hydraulic fracking was invented.”

Read  joint press release by Buckeye Forest Council, Fresh Water Accountability Project, and OVEC: more…

And U.S. Coast Guard announcement in Federal Register, 2-23-16 

Send comments to the Wayne and BLM: No Sacrifice Zone! No fracking anywhere in our state’s only National Forest!

Wild Earth Guardians have submitted a powerful petition calling on BLM to do a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement assessing climate and non-climate impacts (costs and benefits) of its oil and gas leasing program. Great work! Check it out for important legal arguments on cumulative climate- and non-climate impacts of o&g leasing, which must be considered but cannot be considered at the Unit or parcel levels. The FS must do a Forest-wide EIS to assess such impacts on SE Ohio and the Wayne! 1-16

Please send comments to the Wayne National Forest (WNF) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to oppose leasing any Wayne land for fracking. Comments on plans for the Marietta Unit were due 1-22-16. But, although that comment period is technically closed, we have been told that late comments will be accepted, and since the comment period was for the Marietta Unit and the other units have not had formal comment periods, feel free to keep those comments coming in!

Write: blm_es_comments@blm.gov. Please cc Tony Scardina, National Forest Supervisor, ascardina@fs.fed.us (Wayne NF 13700 US Highway 33, Nelsonville OH 45764).  Include RE: DOI-BLM-Eastern States-0030-2016-0002-EA. Note that comments will be public.  A few key issues:

  • The Marietta Unit must not be a sacrifice zone! Please object to the Wayne illegally opening up our Forest to fracking, with its vast consumption of water and production of toxic, radioactive waste, air pollution, industrialization of our region, and significant exacerbation of climate change.
  • The BLM and WNF have no business considering fracking the Wayne until the Wayne evaluates potential impacts at the forest-wide level. Doing this legally obligatory research will make it abundantly clear that fracking will have significant negative impacts on our community’s air, water, and local economies as well as on the climate and therefore must be rejected. District-wide or site-by-site assessments cannot evaluate these cumulative impacts, which under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be evaluated in a Forest-wide Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) due to their significance, scale, and intensity.
  • In order for the BLM to consider leasing mineral rights under the Wayne, federal law requires that the Forest Service (FS) first consent. We demand that the FS withhold consent because the FS can take action on proposals with significant potential impacts (on the Forest and human community surrounding the Forest) only if the action is in accord with the Forest’s Plan. Fracking was not evaluated in the most recent Wayne Forest Plan, done in 2006.
  • The Wayne’s inadequate 2012 Supplemental Information Report (SIR), undertaken after community opposition got the 2011 lease sale canceled, is not a NEPA-based evaluation and cannot legally substitute for one. The FS must undertake a full NEPA-based environmental review of fracking on our forest, our community, its economy, and the climate before considering consent. This review must consider all the new information from peer-reviewed studies, the EPA fracking study (not the misleading statements about its conclusions), NY’s evaluation that led to its statewide ban, and incident reports of explosions, fires, and toxic radioactive releases that have occurred at frack sites and frackwaste operations in Ohio and elsewhere, contaminating air and water and threatening drinking water supplies. (Note especially the weeklong fire of chemicals and waste at a Monroe County frack pad and the Kleese injection well release that killed an entire pond ecosystem in Vienna Ohio.)

No Wayne District is okay to frack. No compromise, no sacrifice zones, no Consent!  More extensive talking points here and sample comments here. And another here: Groff BLM Public Comment Letter re Wayne, complete with relevant photos. 

And note Washington Post on the SOTU:

In the coming days, the White House is expected to announce a proposed regulation to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from oil and gas operations on federal land.

Obama suggested that the world had moved beyond the debate over climate change, despite a large caucus of skeptics in Congress.

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it,” he said. “You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”