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Public meeting attended on WNF fracking

A controversial issue was the topic of a public meeting Thursday evening in the Bowman Auditorium at Ohio University Southern.

The Bureau of Land Management Notheastern States District, lead federal agency for federally owned minerals throughout the United States, is starting its environmental assessments to consider whether or not to further oil and gas development by leasing parcels on approximately 31,900 acres of Wayne National Forest.

Approximately 18,800 acres in the Athens Ranger District, Marietta Unit, 3,150 acres in the Athens Ranger District, Athens Unit and approximately 9,975 acres in the Ironton Ranger District, Ironton Unit are being considered for fracking.

Each environmental assessment will be conducted by a team of experts on the topic from the Bureau of Land Management in coordination with Wayne National Forest resource and technical specialists and will consider the benefits and impacts associated with energy development.

“What we’re doing is holding a public scoping meeting regarding the expression of interests (the process by which the Bureau of Land Management offers Federal minerals for lease),” Martha Malik, Bureau of Land Management public affairs specialist, said. “At these public meetings, we have to provide information and ask for public comments regarding oil and gas development. At this present time, no decisions have been made on leasing any parcels. This is just the initial process.”

Against the oil and gas development of the forest is interim director of the Buckeye Forest Council and Athens resident Joe Hazelbaker.

In a letter he wrote against fracking the Wayne National Forest, Hazelbaker states “increased noise, dust, activity and traffic will disturb wildlife, ruin the opportunity for solitude by recreational users, damage roads and create a safety hazard. Recent studies demonstrate that frack wells leak vast amounts of methane. This is a harmful pollutant and greenhouse gas that disturbs and kills wildlife and vegetation.”

Hazelbaker also stated the large amount of fresh water required for fracking and its potential to significantly deplete local sources, the contaminated condition of the water after being used and the process of collecting, transporting and injecting the toxic water carries the risk of surface and ground contamination.

“Climate change is a crisis with no equal. It demands immediate and decisive action,” Hazelbaker also says in his letter. “We support legislation recently introduced into the U.S. Congress that would ban the development of all publicly owned fossil fuels, such as those underneath Wayne National Forest.”

Following the completion of each environmental assessment, the Bureau of Land Management will decide whether to approve leasing the parcels, not approve leasing the parcels or complete an Environmental Impact Statement to address leasing.