Environmental activists

Environmental groups gathered at the Wayne National Forest Headquarters near Nelsonville on Wednesday morning to ask for a public hearing and extended public comment period regarding fracking in the Wayne National Forest. 

Representatives from four environmental groups gathered at the Wayne National Forest Headquarters near Nelsonville on Wednesday to call for an extension on the Bureau of Land Management’s comment period and a public hearing on the BLM/Wayne plans to allow fracking in the national forest.

Groups represented at the news conference were the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Sierra Club and Torch Can Do.

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 eight hours trying to decipher the BLM’s so-called Environmental Assessment (EA) and so far find it to be gobbledegook.”

The groups say they are concerned about water contamination from chemicals used in the drilling process, as well as potential problems with injection wells and brine truck accidents.

“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.

Cantino urged BLM to hold a public hearing so that community members can share their knowledge of the issues.

The current deadline for public comment is May 29. The groups are asking that the deadline be extended by 60 days.

Loraine McCosker, co-chairwoman 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 spoke about concerns regarding injection wells. She said that in 2015 the state received 28,904,709 barrels or 1,213,997,778 gallons of frack waste. Athens County received 4,021,985 barrels, or 168,923,370 gallons while Washington County received 2,228,558 barrels or 93,599,436 gallons, and adjacent Muskingum County had 2,831,303 barrels or 118,914,726 gallons, she said.

“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,” McCosker said.

Loran Conley, member of Torch Can Do! and resident of the Coolville area — which contains both the Atha and K&H injection well facilities — said that she has personally experienced 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 two years having my three private water wells tested for contaminants, although we don't even know what to look for,” Conley said.

Also speaking were Bern Twp. Trustee Roxanne Groff, Andrea Reik, both of ACFAN, and Caitlyn McDaniel of Buckeye Forest Council. All discussed the “highly significant risks of fracking.”

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 some horse manure to represent what she really thinks of the BLM documents and their conclusions.

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.”

The EA and other associated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents are available online at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/nepa/nepa_register.do. Search under NEPA project number: DOI-BLM-Eastern States-0030-2016-0002-EA.

Those wanting to comment should email blm_es_comments@blm.gov or fax 414-297-4409, attn. Kurt Wadzinski. You can also mail Wadzinski at 626 E. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 200, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53202-4617.

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