Activist Group Uses Wayne National Forest Decision to Renew Call for Fracking Ban

by Jackie Stewart, Energy in Depth

The Wayne National Forest (WNF) announced this week that it will begin revising its Land Management Plan in April. In a press release issued Tuesday, the WNF explained that its decision was prompted by its desire to improve compatibility with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and other state agencies:
“With ODNR’s intention of revising Ohio’s Forest Action Plan by 2020, we have decided the time is right to revise our Land Management Plan, so that we can work more collaboratively with the State.”
But not surprisingly, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) — one of the groups that filed a lawsuit against the BLM and United States Forest Service (USFS) last year for “failure to account for the impacts of fracking on public health, water, endangered species and the climate” in the WNF — is claiming the decision was prompted by its lawsuit, while also using the announcement as an opportunity to renew its call for a fracking ban in the Wayne.
In a press release headlined “Ohio’s Wayne National Forest Announces Land-planning Update Following Fracking Lawsuit,” CBD spokesman Taylor McKinnon states:
“The Wayne’s management plan is completely outdated, so this is welcome news. The public can now demand a plan that bans fracking in the Wayne. People cherish this spectacular place for its clean water, wildlife and wild forests, not industrialization and pollution.”
Though EID has set the record straight several times before on this issue, it bears repeating that the local community not only supports development in the WNF, but also re-emphasize that claims that WNF’s land management plan is “completely outdated” are completely false as well. Furthermore, the complaints listed in CDB’s lawsuit have long been addressed.
Let’s review this now more than decades-long saga.
Back in 2012, , in response to activist protests, WNF reviewed its 2006 Forest Plan and made noteworthy changes to reflect horizontal drilling, such as updated language pursuant to casing and regulation in Ohio, hydraulic fracturing, orphan wells acting as conduits, fluid migration and forest fragmentation. Following that review, officials declared development could proceed in WNF without any additional regulations or changes to the WNF’s plan due to the safety of these operations and the strong regulations in place in Ohio.
Nonetheless, protests from “Keep It In the Ground” groups such as CBD continued over the next five years, culminating with the aforementioned lawsuits filed by CBD, the Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club in 2017.
A close look at that lawsuit revealed it was simply a hodgepodge of erroneous complaints that have long been addressed.
  • The lawsuit claims USFS should have conducted more environmental reviews when it established its Forest Plan and supplemental review. It did.
  • The lawsuit claimed the most recent extensive WNF environmental review did not go far enough and did not include enough public comment opportunities. Wrong on both fronts.
  • The lawsuit included a litany of accusations made over alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act. Each were false.
Essentially, the lawsuit is a prime example of why CBD has a well-earned reputation as a multimillion-dollar litigation factory whose primary objective is pouring sugar into the gas tank of the regulatory process in order to disrupt the process as much as possible.
Make no mistake, its goal is to impose a de facto moratorium on fracking in the Wayne National Forest from the bench, despite community support for drilling and the fact that lease sales alone have already yielded more than $8 million, a huge chunk of which stays local, funding schools and municipal projects.
Though CDB’s claims that it prompted WNF’s plan to revise its Land Management Plan with its frivolous lawsuit are erroneous, its press release serves as an important reminder that this group will attempt to take advantage of any and all opportunities to advance its objective of banning fracking in the Wayne. It also serves as a reminder that CDB doesn’t mind drawing out this already played-out saga indefinitely, much to the detriment of the communities that would benefit from shale development in the WNF.

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