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Ohio Residents Rally against Fracking in the Wayne National Forest
Ohio residents rallied on July 11 at the Wayne National Forest headquarters near Athens, Ohio to protest the leasing of public land for industrial shale oil and gas operations on Ohio's only national forest, during an open house at the headquarters.
Last fall, the process of leasing more than 3,300 acres for oil and gas extraction began on the Wayne National Forest. Most of the acreage (2,600+ acres) lies along the aquifer that provides drinking water to more than 70,000 people in Athens, Perry and Morgan counties.
“These parcels are underlain by abandoned mines, where acid water will corrode steel and cement within decades,” said Loraine McCosker, co-chair of Sierra Club Ohio's forest committee. "The Wayne is legally responsible for protecting public drinking water supplies."
Several thousand petitioners and hundreds of letter writers and attendees at meetings and rallies over the last eight months have pleaded with Wayne officials to do an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“An EIS evaluating economic impacts on the human environment must be done before a national forest commits resources to a significant action. Leasing for fracking is a significant commitment of resources to a highly significant action,” explained Roxanne Groff, event organizer and former Athens County commissioner.
“Leasing will jeopardize our drinking water, air and consequently our local economy. The Wayne by law must do an EIS to evaluate these impacts before leasing,” she explained.
A letter by a coalition of eight state and national environmental organizations supports citizens’ claims that the Wayne is legally required to do an EIS before leasing.
Authored by the Buckeye Forest Council and signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, Heartwood, Environment Ohio and Ohio Environmental Council, the letter states:
“Emergence of HVHHF [high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing] is one of the most significant socioeconomic, environmental and land use-related developments the region has seen over the past 100 years. This circumstance and related information demand the supplementation of the Wayne’s 2006 FEIS [final Environmental Impact Statement]. The legally sound and best option is for the Wayne to pursue EIS supplementation now, prior to any future oil and gas lease sales. EIS supplementation must occur before lease sale and issuance decisions are made and not after-the-fact…”
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