Put an end to sacrilegious treatment of public lands

Nov 25, 2023

George Banzinger

In its Nov. 16 edition, The Marietta Times carried a story with the headline, “Ohio commission approves fracking in state parks.” I attended this event at the headquarters of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Columbus, where this meeting of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission was held. I shared in the disappointment, anger and frustration which was expressed by many members of the Save Ohio Parks group.

There are many reasons that this plan to impose a sacrilege on our state parks and public lands is an outrage. First, the Ohio Legislature drew up a poultry bill, HB 507, and inserted some unrelated “stuffing” language offering public lands of Ohio–including state parks–for oil and gas drilling. The hidden language in this poultry bill allowed the legislature to avoid any public hearings about this controversial proposal to drill for fossil fuels. Adding to this reason for outrage — this legislation declared methane to be green!

A second outrage is that Gov. Michael DeWine signed this legislation and appointed the members of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, who represent real estate, oil and gas interests, and lawyers but no true representatives of environmental interests. The commission then sent out information to oil and gas companies inviting “nominations” for parcels immediately adjacent to state parks and other public lands (in signing the bill the governor promised that there would be no surface drilling on public lands — we shall see if that is enforced). Another outrage is that the names of these companies which submitted nominations were not made public. It is likely that most all of these companies are from out of state, based on preliminary inquiries made to property owners on these sites. The public was invited to comment on these nominations, and more than 5,000 comments from those opposing high-pressure hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) near these public lands were received by the commission. Comments referred to increased truck traffic (hauling in sand, water, and chemicals and hauling out radioactive and toxic brine waste), increased noise and air pollution, and risks to health and the environment, which has been documented in scientific studies. Yet another outrage occurred when over 1,100 comments from those in support of fracking on public lands came in from people whose identities had been stolen and who had no idea until they were contacted that a message in support of fracking on public lands was sent in their names and with their contact information. The latter information came out due to some investigative reporting by reporters from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other press outlets. Attorney General David Yost promised to conduct an investigation of this issue, but at this point his office has not provided any update. Further exasperating opponents of fracking on public lands is that the commission on Nov. 15 went ahead and approved these nominations before any information about the attorney general’s investigation is made public (it is possible that one of the companies that submitted a nomination was behind this deceptive effort). A further cause for outrage, the commission prohibited any comments from the public at the Nov. 15 meeting.

The next step in this process is that the commission will request bids for the various parcels.

If bids come in as expected, Salt Fork State Park, the state’s largest, will be completely surrounded by well pads and oil and gas rigs. The last hope to set any limits or to stop this process is to contact the governor and urge him to do what his predecessor, then-Gov. John Kasich, did and end this sacrilege on our public lands.

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