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 She cited a couple of examples: “They cite an unpublished Masters’ thesis (Fletcher 2012, funded by BP) that says ‘small spills are more common than big spills’ and then (mis)use this meaningless statement to say that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.”