Federal Government to Lease Out Ohio’s Only National Forest to Fracking Interests

nsuThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is preparing to open up bidding for fracking operations in Ohio’s only national forest.

An online auction is planned for Dec. 13 that will accept bids of as little as $2 per acre for the first 1,600 of 40,000 acres to be leased to oil and gas developers in Wayne National Forest.

Opponents of the leasing scheme claim that the decision was based on flawed environmental assessments that underestimated the potential environmental impact on the forest.

From True Activist:

“Following its final environmental assessment of the effects of fracking on Wayne National Forest, the BLM found that “no significant impact” would take place if fracking was allowed to occur in the area. However, the environmental assessment ignored fracking’s threat to drinking water, as well as its effect on air quality and climate. The assessment also fails to consider the cumulative effects of fracking in the forest and the assessment’s findings are based on research that is over 11 years old.”

BLM claims fracking will have “no direct effects” on Wayne National Forest

In the section of the assessment addressing the “anticipated environmental effects” of the fracking operations, the BLM claims that there would be “no direct effects from leasing” on air/resources/climate, plant and animal habitat and populations, geology and mineral resources, soil or water resources and water quality.

Clearly, this is either a head-in-the-sand appraisal of the situation or a bald-faced lie. It’s impossible for any clear-thinking person to imagine that fracking will have no direct effects on Wayne National Forest.

But the BLM is famous for serving private interests as well as its own – the agency makes money from leasing millions of acres of federal land to the fossil fuel industry.

Opposition to the scheme has so far been largely unsuccessful – the agency has chosen to ignore 17,000 public comments voicing concerns over the impact of fracking in Wayne National Forest. There are accusations that the rights of the local Native American minority and low-income populations living nearby are also being ignored – opponents say this constitutes a violation of 1994 Executive Order #12898, which addresses environmental justice issues.

But time is running out:

“Currently, less than 30 days remain for opponents of the planned, land leasing to file a formal protest against the auction. An attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council has said that their organization will appeal the BLM’s decision on the grounds that environmental concerns were not adequately considered.”

Fracking impact only now beginning to be fully understood

Considering the fact that the extent of the negative effects of fracking on the environment and human health have only recently begun to be fully recognized, it would seem that basing an environmental assessment on information more than a decade old would be adequate grounds for such an appeal.

A Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study published this year revealed a number of previously unrecognized adverse health effects associated with fracking, including migraines, nasal and sinus problems, and fatigue.

And those are just a few of the effects of fracking on human health. Pollution from fracking in our air and water is causing an increase in cancer rates as well as heart disease and neurological disorders.

Fracking poisons our food, our air and water supplies, kills wildlife, causes earthquakes and destroys ecosystems.

It will be interesting to see how President-elect Trump manages to live up to his campaign promises of deregulating the gas and oil industry without also posing great risk to the public and the environment.

He is correct in condemning the regulatory system – it certainly needs an overhaul – but it will take extraordinary leadership skills to strike a balance between economic interests and those of public health and environmental protection.

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