Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Corner: Ohio Public Land Fracturing | News, Sports, Jobs
Ohio HB 507 was rushed through the “lame duck” session without any public comment. This bill, which facilitates hydraulic fracturing on our public lands, becomes law on April 7. Once that happens, the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission will control the leasing processes. They create lease agreement rules and forms for state “fracking-nominated” plots. However, until the rules are in place, leases can be executed “without public notice, without public comment and without competitive bidding or oversight by the commission to protect public interests”.
Unlike New York, which banned fracking based on numerous health studies, Ohio embraced the industry with open arms and a nonchalant attitude toward regulations protecting the land, air, water and the health of citizens. Our state lands are now open to oil and gas extraction and we face an impossible task: trying to save our forests and parks from an extractive industry. At a February meeting of the commission, Ohio citizens asked for a comment period of at least 60 days, advance notification of plots being considered, plot information, including maps, and factors considered in decision making.
I attended the commission meeting on March 1, but citizens were forbidden to speak or ask questions. Instead, the majority of the meeting was allocated to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), which discussed their highly lucrative long-term association with the oil and gas industry and their lease contract model.
While the MWCD claims that its mission is flood reduction, conservation and recreation, after its presentation one could say that its mission is to make money, lots of money. In fact, “no one has benefited more financially than the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District; Ohio’s first drilling recipient.
The MWCD has earned millions of dollars from water sales, fracking leases and royalties. In addition, the MWCD collects royalties from boaters who use the lakes, house leases, park royalties, timbering monies, and royalties from flood protection assessments.
Citing the MWCD royalty range (18%-20%) as a model, the commission set 12.5% as the minimum royalty for state lands, saying it “likely leaves dollars on the table.” There is no doubt that our state lands are seen as sources of money, not public lands where Ohio citizens can enjoy nature or where biodiversity is protected. The citizens of Ohio own this land and taxpayer dollars support these agencies, but we are unlikely to have a seat at the table when it comes to deciding which land can be leased.
Muskingum land manager Nate Wilson described how their (MWCD) leases “require additional setbacks (3,000 feet), testing and additional containment facilities in the event of an accident.” But their contribution to the process stops there. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has shown it has no ability to enforce violations or impose fines and industry benefits from exemptions from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act , the Safe Drinking Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and emergency planning and community law. -Know how to act.
MWCD Executive Director Craig Butler said they (MWCD) “don’t put any surface construction on MWCD land, but we have pipeline access and gathering line access and utility lines. water and that sort of thing. It remains unclear if our federal lands will be impacted by the drilling rigs. Companies could potentially use a “separate written surface use agreement” to construct well pads on state land.
The widespread use of high-pressure hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has turned rural areas of southeastern Ohio into industrial areas. I travel along highways 151, 250 and 646 in the Lake Tappan area of the MWCD watershed and see endless pipelines crossing the hills. Well pads, access roads, water intake lines and infrastructure devour the landscape. Is this what we want for our state lands?
Many Ohioans choose to live in rural areas because of the beauty of the forests and hills. True stewards of the environment protect valuable resources for future generations; they do not destroy them for financial gain. No amount of money or extravagant marina is worth exposing our children to toxic chemicals and pollution from an unregulated industry. Our rural communities have become sacrificial zones at the mercy of the fossil fuel industry.
Proponents of fracking only tout the monetary gains and continue to ignore the long-term health effects associated with fracking. They ignore the increases in methane emissions that are fueling climate change and contributing to the collapse of ecosystems around the world. They allow radioactive leachate to enter our waterways. They neglect the millions of gallons of radioactive produced water and carcinogenic chemicals that travel along our rural roads every day. Accidents involving trucks and tankers increased 14% in fractured areas of Ohio.
The recent train derailment in eastern Palestine reminds us how easily a single mistake can permanently alter the lives of thousands of people and forever alter the environment. Until Ohio puts health, safety and a clean environment before the interests of the fossil fuel industry, we can only wonder what will be left of our state lands and communities. rural areas as a result of this fracking rush.
Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She holds a doctorate in environmental studies and is certified in hazardous materials regulations.
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