On Sunday, Oct. 21 more than 50 Ohioans converged at Quail Hollow State Park to protest the leasing and fracking of the park through a controversial legal maneuver known as “unitization.” The event, which included a hike and discussion forum, was led by the Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Sierra Club of Ohio and Mohican Advocates.
Unitization is a decades-old, almost never-used Ohio law that allows oil and gas companies to force unwilling property owners to surrender their land to drilling and fracking. “The Quail Hollow unitization essentially forced every citizen in Ohio to surrender their land,” said John Makley of Mohican Advocates.
“The public had no say in the process,” said Melanie Houston, director of Environmental Policy and Environmental Health for the Ohio Environmental Council. The state legislature opened Ohio’s parks to fracking in the summer of 2011, provided that any park land at issue go through public comment and a formal review and nomination process. However, Chesapeake Energy’s special unitization order allowed the company to avoid the public input and review process. “The unitization of Quail Hollow shut out the public from the opportunity to have full knowledge of and comment on this use of their publicly-owned resource,” Houston stated.
“Ohio’s unitization law was passed decades ago to resolve disputes between oil and gas companies and was not intended to be a back door into the public’s parks,” said Nathan Johnson, staff attorney for the Buckeye Forest Council. Until the shale rush hit, the law was largely forgotten and almost never used. “The oil and gas industry has rediscovered unitization as a tool to take what it wants from an unwilling public,” added Johnson.
“Shockingly, the only legal rationale for unitization is more money for the oil and gas industry,” said Johnson. Oil and gas companies can legally force unitization if doing so is deemed “reasonably necessary” to “substantially” increase their profits.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) issued a unitization order on July 10 that enabled Chesapeake Energy to force-pool a four-acre portion of the park along with land held by 23 property owners who refused to sign a lease with the company.
“The idea that Chesapeake needed Quail Hollow to substantially increase its profits is not acceptable—the four unitized acres of the park are at the extreme southeastern-most tip of a 959-acre drilling unit,” said Loraine McCosker, co-chair of the Forests and Public Lands Committee of the Ohio Sierra Club. “ODNR’s irrational decision makes the agency partly responsible for this betrayal of the public trust,” added McCosker.
“Our walk today in the woods of Quail Hollow State Park showed us the beauty that inspired the idea of setting aside land to serve as reservoirs of Ohio's natural heritage for all Ohioans to enjoy,” said Makley. “The idea of exploiting that land for short-term gain serves only to fill the pockets of the few at the expense of the many for generations to come."
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
The Coalition to Protect Ohio's Parks envisions an Ohio where our state parks and public forests are forever kept as places free from industrial development so that they may continue to serve as reservoirs of biodiversity, natural beauty and recreational opportunities.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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