On November 14, 2016, FreshWater Accountability Project and 26 other organizations filed a protest letter to oppose the opening of the Wayne National Forest to oil and gas development. The letter protests the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed December 13, 2016, oil and gas lease sale of 33 parcels of publicly owned lands.
The proposed lease sale would allow unconventional oil and gas development and hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) on approximately 1,600 acres of Ohio’s only national forest. The letter argues that the lease sale would violate substantive and procedural federal law designed to protect human health and the environment. Specifically, the protest argues that BLM is required under the National Environmental Policy Act to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement. This would include a more thorough environmental analysis than the Environmental Assessment (EA) conducted by BLM. The groups also argued the EA itself was inadequate because it relied on outdated information and did not fully assess many of the foreseeable environmental impacts of the lease sale, including the impacts to air quality, water resources, public health, and endangered species. The protest letter also raises concerns regarding climate change and environmental justice for local communities surrounding the proposed extraction sites. The letter also states BLM must consider other alternatives to the lease sale, such as keeping hydrocarbons under federally-owned land in the ground or prohibiting hydraulic fracturing on leased parcels.
FreshWater Accountability Project is a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve freshwater supplies and other valuable natural resources through education and community action, and is dedicated to promoting health by protecting the environment. Lea Harper, Freshwater Accountability Project’s founder and Managing Director, works to make information pertaining to hydraulic fracturing and the disposal of its associated waste products easily accessible to the public in order to encourage people to be involved in creating meaningful change at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Through grassroots actions like this one, FreshWater Accountability Project hopes to ensure Ohio’s valuable resources are protected, and that, in turn, its future is preserved.
Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a non-profit law firm committed to serving modest means clients in the Appalachian Basin, filed the protest letter—pursuant to 43 C.F.R. § 3120.1-3—on behalf of the groups.
In addition to FreshWater Accountability Project, the following organizations signed on to the protest: Athens County Fracking Action Network, Buckeye Forest Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Torch CAN DO, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, Radioactive Waste Alert, Columbus Community Bill of Rights, Guernsey County Citizens’ Support on Drilling Issues, Frack Free Lake County, Sustainable Medina County, Ohio Allies, Frack Free Geauga, Network for Oil & Gas Accountability & Protection, Concerned Citizens Ohio, Friends for Environmental Justice, FaCT-Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future, Northwest Ohio Alliance to Stop Fracking, The Committee for the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights, Ohio Community Rights Network, Concerned Citizens of New Concord, Ohio River Citizens’ Alliance, Ashtabula County Water Watch, and Headwaters Defense.
The full protest letter is available to view at https://fwap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Protest-Letter-Dec.-13-2016-Lease-Sale.pdf.