OH Groups Want More Public Feedback on Leasing State Lands for Oil, Gas
Monday, April 24, 2023
Residents and environmental groups say they're concerned about public notice and comment processes for leasing state lands for oil and gas extraction.
Next month, Ohio's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review holds a hearing on regulating the leasing process.
Under House Bill 507, which just went into effect, any state agency that receives a request for fracking or drilling on land in a state park or forest must approve the request.
Cathy Cowan Becker - an organizer with Buckeye Environmental Network - explained that as the state's Oil and Gas Land Management Commission weighs new rules for the leasing process, communities want their voices heard.
"When people find out this is happening, they have very strong feelings about this," said Becker. "And I really hope the commission and the state will listen to this, because the people are who own the public land. We're the ones who own and use our state parks."
Her group and others want the state to strengthen the rules for notifying the public - including allowing 60 days for public comments instead of the current 21 - and assurances that Ohio will consider the health and environmental impacts of fracking.
The hearing is May 8.
Becker pointed out that, while fracking generates short-term revenue, studies show preserving state lands brings in billions of dollars in revenue, year after year.
She added that having access to wilderness and outdoor recreation helps drive Ohio's tourism economy.
"So that people can hike and camp, and birdwatch and hunt, and fish, you know," said Becker, "they're not going to want to do that if a state park is surrounded by fracking rigs that are flaring methane all the time."
The Environmental Protection Agency says the burning off or flaring of natural gas, the heavy equipment at well sites, and the use of diesel trucks to transport materials to and from the sites all contribute to increased air pollution.
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