Climate Corner: Save Ohio parks

Oct 21, 2023

Randi Pokladnik

On Friday, Oct. 27, at noon, Save Ohio Parks will be holding a rally for Ohio State Parks, Climate and Democracy. When HB 133 passed back in 2011, Ohio’s Republican legislators made it known that public lands were not protected from fracking. “The most significant aspect of HB 133 is the creation of the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission, which will oversee and coordinate the leasing of land owned or controlled by a state agency, state university or college for the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas.”

After the passage of this bill, Ohio’s citizens expressed their anger over the opening of our lands to this extractive process. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources worked hand in hand with the industry trying to convince the public that fracking was safe. At one point, Ohio citizens protesting fracking state lands were referred to as “environmental activist opponents” and “skilled propagandists.”

In 2014, then Gov. Kasich reversed his position and the issue seemed to be a moot point. But, during the lame duck session of December 2022, HB 507, dubbed the “stuffed chicken bill,” passed along party lines. The bill not only declared that fracked gas was green energy but also resurrected the issue of fracking state lands. This bill was passed and signed into law without any public comment period.

Now Ohio’s citizens wait while the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, an industry biased group appointed by Gov. DeWine, decides to approve or not approve the nominations to frack thousands of acres of state lands, including the entirety of Salt Fork State Park, Wolf Run State Park and Zepernick Wildlife Area.

Make no mistake, those so-called “skilled propagandists,” aka concerned Ohio citizens, have done their very best to educate the commission. The commission members often seem totally unaware of anything related to fracking, as well as their responsibilities as commission members; including their ability to deny nominations. Citizens have sent countless comments, many citing peer-reviewed studies like the Physicians For Social Responsibility Release 8th Compendium of Scientific, Medical, Media Findings On Risks, Harms Of Fracking And Oil & Gas Infrastructure, that describe the health effects, environmental issues, and safety issues that come with fracking and its infrastructure. Citizens are doing the research that should be done by the commission.

During commission meetings, citizens are only spectators who can watch and listen but not ask any questions of the commission. According to the statue, the names of the companies nominating state land for fracking leases shall be kept secret. Citizens deserve to know why and how the commission decides to approve or not approve submissions. Democracy in Ohio is practically nonexistent.

The recent announcement of the selection of seven regional hydrogen hubs across the nation makes it even more important that we should prevent fracking in our precious parks. Southeastern Ohio will be part of the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) where methane gas obtained from fracking would produce hydrogen using heat, steam, and pressure. Proponents refer to it as clean hydrogen because they plan on capturing the carbon dioxide generated using unproven carbon capture technology. This is not clean energy. A study published in Energy and Science Engineering said, “The carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat.”

Once again, Ohio’s Appalachian communities are becoming a mineral colony for the fossil fuel industry. Those $925 million federal dollars being appropriated for the hub could be used to support energy efficiency, real clean energy, and local jobs. Hub supporters say that the projects will create 3,000 full-time jobs, but the citizens of the fracked counties of Appalachia Ohio know jobs promised are not jobs realized. Fracking did not bring economic prosperity to local communities.

“Hydrogen is another bait and switch from an administration that continues to break its promises to aggressively tackle climate change and help communities achieve a just, equitable transition to renewable energy,” said Soni Grant of the Center for Biological Diversity. The Appalachian hub, ARCH2, has as one of its partners EQT Energy, the nation’s largest gas producer. The reason our region was chosen for this hub becomes obvious: Utica and Marcellus Shale gas.

SE Ohio, especially the counties of Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, Noble, Guernsey, and Carroll, sit above deposits of Utica and Marcellus shale. Unfortunately, the state lands nominated for leases are also located in these areas. A satellite image of the region is rather shocking as it shows the ridiculous number of fracking pads, areas of 10 to 30 acres, that currently exist in these counties. Harrison county, where I live, currently has according to Shale XP over 160 well pads. These pads, including associated pipelines, tanks, compressors, access roads, injection wells, stream withdrawal stations, as well as the endless water trucks, brine trucks, sand trucks, chemical trucks, and construction vehicles are located near churches, cemeteries, small towns, farms, retirement homes, streams, lakes, and schools. Is this what we want for our state lands?

While local, state, and federal politicians, as well as the oil and gas industry sing the praises of the ARCH2 projects, we in the region realize that it means more forests cut apart by pipelines, more habitat eaten up by frack pads, more water withdraws, more air pollution, and more injection wells injecting billions of gallons of toxic radioactive wastes in our communities.

Ohioans must face the reality that our state has been captured by this industry. We cannot depend on our politicians to consider the future of our region, our state, or even the planet. Although climate change has been estimated to cost as much as $23 trillion in reduced annual global economic output worldwide, it is not on Ohio politicians’ list of concerns. It is the citizens who must take on this fight to educate and push back against those who consider us a sacrificial region.

Come to the rally in Columbus Oct. 27 and let Ohio’s politicians know we are not willing to let you destroy our state parks to pad oil and gas CEOs pockets.


Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She has a doctorate degree in environmental studies and is certified in hazardous materials regulations.