U.S. District Court halts Wayne leasing, drilling, and water withdrawals, a VICTORY for protection of Ohio’s only National Forest and for the people and creatures of SE Ohio. 3-21
Video of our community visit to the Wayne NF for their open house, 3-3-20 posted on our video page.
WAYNE NF WIN!
Court Stalls Fracking Leases in Ohio’s Only National Forest
Ruling: Feds Overlooked Danger to Air, Wildlife, Watersheds
COLUMBUS, Ohio? A federal judge today stalled oil and gas leasing in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest, ruling** that the Trump administration failed to consider threats to public health, endangered species and watersheds before opening more than 40,000 acres of the forest for fracking.
U.S. District Judge Michael Watson said the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management “demonstrated a disregard for the different types of impacts caused by fracking in the Forest. The agencies made decisions premised on a faulty foundation.” Watson’s ruling requires the agencies to redo their environmental analysis of the potential harms from fracking in the Wayne.
“We’re thrilled the court is requiring the Trump administration to examine fracking’s serious threats to our air, water and forest wildlife,” said Wendy Park, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fracking is a dirty, dangerous business. This ruling helps ensure the health of this spectacular forest and its endangered animals and protects the water source for millions of people.”
In May 2017 conservation groups sued the Forest Service and the BLM over plans to permit fracking in the Wayne, saying federal officials had relied on an outdated plan and ignored significant environmental threats before approving fracking in the forest. The lawsuit also aimed to void two BLM lease sales. The court will decide later whether to void those existing leases, but a planned March sale will likely be postponed.
In today’s ruling, the judge said the agencies ignored potential harm from fracking to endangered Indiana bats, the waters of the Little Muskingum River and the region’s air quality.
“This is a huge win for people, for wildlife and for the forest,” said Nathan Johnson, attorney and public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council. “This effort dates back to at least 2011, when southeast Ohio communities came together to oppose fracking in the Wayne. Today’s ruling is a culmination of citizen effort and it reaffirms that federal agencies must consider the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.”
The BLM’s leasing plan would industrialize Ohio’s only national forest with roads, well pads and gas lines, the lawsuit asserts. This would destroy Indiana bat habitat, pollute watersheds and water supplies that support millions of people, and would endanger other federally protected species in the area.
“Today’s victory is a result of the tireless efforts from communities across southeast Ohio,” said Elly Benson, attorney for the Sierra Club. “We applaud this decision that will help protect the Wayne National Forest from fracking, allowing Ohioans ? and people from all over ? to continue to enjoy and explore the forest.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Here are some gems from the Court order:
A USFS Regional Office review of an internal draft of the 2012 SIR’s water source review is rife with comments pointing out how flimsy the 2012 SIR’s and in turn the 2006 EIS’s water resource review was. For example, when explaining that the Forest Hydrologist considered a “vast amount of information related to oil and gas fracturing activities,” the reviewer noted that “Sounds like the analysis of it the Plan EIS was not adequate…[t]he fact that the hydrologist had to consider vast amounts of information leads to the conclusion that the 2006 Forest Plan and EIS did not sufficiently account for the issue of fracking.”…But instead of addressing the potential flaws raised by the comments, USFS removed the paragraphs at issue from the final 2012 SIR and replaced them with general language indicating that Ohio’s laws adequately protect water usage….Indeed, as the USFS commentator point out, “a lot of the material in the groundwater and surface water effects section is a restatement of standards, regulations, etc. rather than an actual effects analysis.” The Court could not have said it better. As is highlighted by the USFS reviewer’s comments, what is lacking from USFS’s review are the actual effects of the increased water needs for fracking in the Forest. What we have is basically a regurgitation of the 2006 EIS’s water plan discussion for conventional drilling, but there is no analysis or reasoned discussion of how, or whether, the vast amounts of water needed for fracking will pose different environmental risks. The Court finds that the 2006 Forest Plan and EIS did not sufficiently address the new and different impacts of fracking on water usage, particularly how fracking would affect the Little Muskingum River. The 2012 SIR’s cursory and conclusory review of the cumulative impacts on water depletion in the Forest from fracking did not cure the deficiency. (pp. 56-57)
…conclusory justifications…are meaningless when the record is devoid of any analysis or discussion of how the Little Muskingum River would be impacted by fracking activities in the WNF. (p. 59)
The Court cannot conclude that impacts of fracking on the Indiana Bat were reasonably considered when the only supporting document – the 2005 BIOp – did not consider it at all, and the total surface disturbance, which impacts their habitats, was not adequately addressed. (p. 61)
USFS cannot tier its review [of air quality impacts] to the 2006 EIS if the air quality impacts of oil and gas leasing were not analyzed in that document. p. 65
NEPA is not designed to postpone analysis of an environmental consequence to the last possible moment. Rather, it is designed to require such analysis as soon as it can reasonably be done.
Federal agencies must comply with the requirements of NEPA and reach reasoned decisions on issues of environmental concern. Disclosure of information critical to decision-making is a primary function of NEPA. [T]he Court finds that USFS’s and BLMs failure to analyze the foreseeable impacts on the air quality from fracking activities was arbitrary and capricious.
The agencies made decisions based on a faulty foundation that the 2006 Forest Plan’s and 2006 EIS’s consideration of vertical drilling sufficiently accounted for the impacts of fracking. Each iteration of agency review built upon that faulty foundation – the 2016 EA relied on the 2012 SIR, which relied on the 2012 BLM letter, which relied on the 2006 Forest Plan and 2006 EIS – but neither USFS nor BLM stopped to take that ‘hard look’ that was required of them. Specifically, the Court finds that at the decision-to-lease phase, USFS and BLM failed to take a hard look at the impacts of fracking in WNF, including 1) surface area disturbance, 2) cumulative impacts on the Indiana Bat and the Little Muskingum River, and 3) impacts on air quality.
The Court agrees that additional briefing on remedies is the most prudent course of action to take.
Jan. 28, 2019: Ohioans work to influence next Wayne National Forest Plan
Citizen-initiated Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies submits comments to Wayne NF Planning Team for the assessment phase of the new Plan development. See the 116-page document here.
The Wayne National Forest, Ohio’s only National Forest, has begun the process of revising its principal document, the Forest Management Plan. Under the 2012 USFS Planning Rule, this process must include a rigorous effort to engage the public during the current assessment period and all subsequent phases of Plan development. The Wayne Planning Team has been meeting with interested parties for several months and is reviewing submissions by hundreds of citizens and stakeholders about what must be changed from the current 2006 Plan, which it must consider in preparation of the forthcoming Draft Assessment report.
The Wayne Planning Team created several working groups to give input. Ohio University and Marietta College are each receiving $100,000 for specific work, the latter for an assessment of oil and gas “assets”. Landowners and representatives of recreation, renewable energy, biodiversity and forest health, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness interests are participating in various groups as volunteers. When members of ACFAN (Athens County’s Future Action Network, formerly Athens County Fracking Action Network) realized there were no concerned-citizen groups, we initiated one: the Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies. Folks from all over Ohio who seek deep changes to the current destructive Wayne management, which is largely governed by the highly flawed 2006 Plan, met by phone over a 3-month period and produced a 120-page document, recently submitted to the planning team. The report outlines the group’s concerns and recommendations, much drawn directly from the Economic Analysis of the 2006 Wayne National Forest Plan, a report commissioned by Heartwood and produced in 2008 by Christine Glaser and Karyn Moskowitz, then of GreenFire Consulting. The working group’s report, developed by Heather Cantino with input from many group participants, documents, in an extensive annotated bibliography of peer-reviewed research, the profoundly negative impacts of current Wayne management practices, especially logging, prescribed burns, leasing of oil and gas minerals, and OHV/ORV trails, as well as other forest-disturbing activities.
The Wayne has never taken the hard look required by federal law to assess its role in keeping our region and local economies healthy and how to help save our planet rather than contribute to its destruction! Ohioans will continue to demand that the Wayne serve the economic best interests of our region, as required by law, and practice ecological forest management to protect biodiversity, climate, regional air and water, and human and animal health.
by Roxanne Groff and Heather Cantino, board members, Buckeye Environmental Network, and steering committee members of Athens County’s Future Action Network (ACFAN, formerly Athens County Fracking Action Network)
December 2016:Check out acfan’s front page for call to action: E-mail Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson and Senator Sherrod Brown’s office with documentation of fracking’s harms. They don’t yet seem to get it! If you’d like to call as well on Monday, Dec. 12, please do. Printable call sheet available here. Take action now! Auction (online) is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13.
A legal protest to BLM has been filed on behalf of TWENTY-SIX grassroots groups, including ACFAN, authored by Fair Shake attorneys. Thanks, Lea Harper, of Freshwater Accountability Project, for facilitating and supporting this legal effort! Contact email@example.com for a copy (until it is posted on the BLM website).
See newly filed formal protest to BLM here on behalf of Buckeye Forest Council and ACFAN by the Center for Biological Diversity. Thank you to CBD for this powerful, important appeal to BLM and USFS to follow the law! 11-14-16
Change.org petition against fracking the Wayne. Over 92,000 signatures delivered to the BLM in D.C.. by ACFAN, Buckeye Forest Council and Sproutogether. 11-14-16. Update: As of 12-8-16, the petition had over 98,700 signatures.
Marietta residents also oppose fracking in national forest, contrary to claims by now-absent Wayne supervisor Tony Scardina. Thanks, Marietta residents, for educating and activating your community! 12-8-16
Ecowatch article on upcoming scheduled lease sale of 1600 acres of Wayne land for fracking. 11-2-16
Athens County Commissioners host public hearing on Wayne fracking plans, June 28. Press after event here and here. Details prior to event: acfan blog post. Some comments submitted: Choices — F. Mettler testimony, N. Cooper letter to T Scardina, Melissa Wales comments.
Tony Scardina, Wayne National Forest Supervisor, wants peer-reviewed studies (not that the BLM EA contains any meaninful peer-reviewed references). Send him some and then ask if he’s read them! Visit acfan’s water-air-and-health/ and economics/ pages and some of these comments, following, for plenty to send Tony’s way:
Buckeye Forest Council, ACFAN, Heartwood, and Center for Health, Environment, and Justice submit important legal comments on BLM Environmental Assessment (EA) of Wayne plans to frack the Marietta Unit: EA comments BFC-ACFAN et al.5-31-16
Center for Biological Diversity, joined by Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and Ohio Environmental Council, submits powerful comments on BLM/Wayne Marietta Unit Environmental Assessment (EA). CBD press release here. June 1, 2016
Other EA comments here: draft BLM EA comments HCantino DOI-BLM-ES-0030-2016-0002-EA-5-25; RGRoff draft EA comments and request for extension and public hearing 5-25-16; Brian Blair EA comments 5-16. And Michael Rinaldi-Eichenberg’s powerful letter to Tony Scardina.
Office of the President: 2015 memo on ECOSYSTEM SERVICES needing to be considered in federal land planning decisions.
NEPA language and relevant citations on Forest Supervisor responsibilities.
Earlier post during EA comment period: Urgent: Please write the BLM and FS to request an extension of the comment period and a public hearing on the BLM/FS Draft “Environmental Assessment” released on April 29, 2016, which tries to justify fracking the Wayne. The comment period currently ends 5-29-16. See acfan post on front page here for instructions on submission and talking points. Press release from press May 18 conferences here. 5-16
Appeal for comments to Wayne National Forest Supervisor Tony Scardina to say, No fracking the Wayne! No consent to lease! Wayne talking points and contact info. 3-1-16
Wild Earth Guardians submit 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! 1-16
The Waynettes debut at Wayne National Forest Headquarters, with carols and a message to Mr. Scardina: Do the research. Follow the law. No consent! 12-21-15
National report documents necessity for U.S. to halt all leasing of federal minerals in order to meet obligations to international climate agreement. Press release: Climate Study: Ending New Federal Fossil Fuel Leases Would Keep 450 Billion Tons of Carbon Pollution in Ground 8-15
BFC letter to USFS 11-15: No consent! Do the research! Follow the law!
Wayne National Forest ignores science and community and moves ahead with leasing plans: WTAP Parkersurg tv interviews local organizer Heather Cantino, retired natural resources professor Rebecca Wood, business owner Christine Hughes, and Wayne National Forest Supervisor Anne Carey (9-6-12). Note factual error by reporter: it is 13 well sites, not 13 wells that the Wayne plans to authorize. 13 sites can mean 130 wells. Since Ohio law permits all volatile organic emissions (23 TONS per well) to be released directly into the air, air pollution alone may mean 6 million pounds of additional air pollution from well emissions alone. This does not count truck traffic or methane emissions. Also note Risberg’s commentary disguised as fact that the wells are designed to be drilled “safely.” What is the evidence for her statement? Carey’s explanation is certainly not reassuring.
See also: Drilling Dysfunction: How the Failure to Oversee Drilling on Public Lands Endangers Health and the Environment, 2-12
WTAP interviews with Heather Cantino, Rebecca Wood, Christine Hughes, and Anne Carey (9-6-12). Note factual error by reporter: it is 13 well sites, not 13 wells that the Wayne plans to authorize. 13 sites can mean 130 wells. Since Ohio law permits all volatile organic emissions (23 TONS per well) to be released directly into the air, air pollution alone may mean 6 million pounds of additional air pollution from well emissions alone. This does not count truck traffic or methane emissions. Also note Risberg’s commentary disguised as fact that the wells are designed to be drilled “safely.” What is the evidence for her statement? Carey’s explanation is certainly not reassuring.
Messenger July Wayne event coverage, including citizen concerns and officials’ inaccurate statements
questions for Wayne open house 7-12 and background info
BFC et al Letter to Wayne – 6-4-2012 Important legal argument for pre-leasing EIS.
Call or write the Wayne June 2012 Decision expected any day. Please contact Supervisor Carey today!
Wayne talking points: to understand why Wayne officials’ arguments are misguided and misleading.
Geoff Buckley WNF talk at Wayne May 2012
Athens City Resolution re Wayne May 2012
April 26 2012 letter to Anne Carey re Wayne leasing
Excerpts from National Park Service
“Development of the Natural Gas Resources in the Marcellus Shale”
Wayne National Forest: Steps beyond the RONI Presented to Anne Carey 4-12
Debbie Phillips’ Letter to Anne Carey, May 2012
Mineral Rights Committee Recommendations to OU Trustees
Ohio University’s conclusions on economic, safety, and environmental risks of fracking 4-12
Wayne protest, Nov. 16, 2011: In spite of the Wayne’s Nov. 15 decision to withdraw the Wayne parcels from BLM’s Dec. 2011 planned lease sale, activists headed to the Wayne, now both to thank the Wayne for its decision and to call for thorough review of shale extraction on the forest and region.
Wayne rescinds decision to offer parcels for Dec. 2011 lease sale, following Wayne’s new Forest Supervisor Anne Carey’s Nov. 14 meeting with Athens county concerned citizens. Nov. 15, 2011
BFC et al BLM Protest 10-7-11