Throwing us under the fracking truck

May 13, 2023

Times Leader online

Randi Pokladnik

Ohio’s Republican party is ignoring the health of residents in Appalachian counties as it uses the recent passage of House Bill 507 to enable fracking on Ohio’s public lands.

HB 507 was passed without a public hearing during a lame duck session.

The economic benefit Ohio receives from outdoor recreation at Ohio parks is estimated to be $8.1 billion per year, and the recreational industry employs 132,790 workers. But, ODNR’s 5-member Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, who is responsible for writing rules for leasing public lands, is willing to throw the park industry and rural communities under the fracking truck.

The decisions that will affect Ohio’s public lands and ultimately the health of Ohio’s rural communities will be made by The Director of Natural Resources and four members appointed by the Governor; two with experience in oil and gas, one from real estate, and one from an environmental organization. Hundreds of citizens made public comments to the commission about the health and environmental risks of fracking, yet not one person on the commission has any expertise in these areas or was willing to address any of their concerns.

The commission seems fixated on making money off public-owned lands. The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) spoke at the March commission meeting, touting their recent $40 million deal with Texas-based Encino Energy to frack 7,300 acres at Tappan Lake. Encino has its eye on Salt Fork and reportedly wants to get a 15-year lease to place well pads around the park.

Although Governor (Mike) DeWine has assured there will be no well pads on park land itself, a state agency can negotiate additional lease agreements to do this. Fracking is basically unregulated and exposes local communities to multiple carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting pollutants. Additionally, fracking does all of the following: creates a high demand for surface water and land area, increases truck traffic with approximately 592 one-way trips per well, generates toxic fracking wastewater containing water soluble radionuclides, impacts biodiversity and landscape, contaminates air by emissions, leaches PFAS into waterways, induces seismic activity, increases radon in homes, can lead to explosions, requires massive amounts of gathering pipelines, and of course increases amounts of the greenhouse-gas methane.

Ohio’s marginalized Appalachian counties have become a mineral colony, enriching fossil fuel corporations while communities fall further into poverty. (State) Senator (Matt) Huffman (R-12th District) thinks fracking public lands is a “great revenue generator” to provide tax cuts for the rich. Why doesn’t Ohio generate revenues by raising gas severance taxes? Ohio has one of the lowest in the country; currently a paltry 2.5 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas. Instead, Ohio’s politicians placate the fossil fuel industry, while Ohio’s regulatory agencies are controlled by the industries they are charged with regulating.

Randi Jeannine Pokladnik