By Randi Pokladnik
Once again, Ohio’s Republican party is ignoring science and the health of the communities of the Appalachian counties as it uses the recent passage of HB 507 to rush the fracking of Ohio’s public lands. Disregarding the fact that Ohio’s economy benefits from outdoor recreational trips estimated to be $8.1 billion per year, and employs 132,790 workers in the recreation industry, the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, a five-person commission, is pushing on to expedite the fracking of our state parks.
The decisions affecting the future of Ohio’s public lands and the health of Ohio’s rural communities will be made by the director of natural resources and four members appointed by the governor: two with experience in oil and gas, one from real estate, and one from an environmental organization. There are no MDs or PhDs, no one with any scientific knowledge of the health and environmental risks of fracking, even though hundreds of citizens brought these issues up in public comments.
The commission, obviously blinded by money, invited the Muskingum Watershed Conservation District to their March meeting. MWCD is an expert on fracking money flaunting their recent $40 million deal with Texas-based Encino Energy to frack 7300 acres at Tappan Lake. Encino has its eye on Salt Fork State Park and reportedly wants to get a 15-year lease with a possible 50+ well pads around the park.
Although Gov. Mike DeWine has promised there will be no well pads on the park land itself, there are no guarantees that a state agency will not negotiate additional lease agreements. Fracking brings with it many other issues along with a well pad. They include a high demand for surface water and land, truck traffic with approximately 592 one-way trips per well, more fracking wastewater containing water soluble radionuclides the impact on biodiversity and landscape, contamination of air by emissions, PFAS forever chemicals leaching into surface water, induced seismic activity, increased radon in homes, possible explosions, more gathering pipelines, and of course increased amounts of the greenhouse-gas; methane.
The residents of the state will watch while their parks are destroyed and the residents of Appalachian counties, once again become a sacrificial zone. Republican politicians have made it clear: the negative health, social, and environmental effects from increased fracking are not as important as tax handouts to the rich. If Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman thinks this is such a “great revenue generator,” he needs to come live in a fracked landscape.
Dr. Randi Pokladnik was born and raised in Ohio. She earned an associate degree in Environmental Engineering, a BA in Chemistry, MA and PhD in Environmental Studies. She is certified in hazardous materials regulations and holds a teaching license in science and math. She worked as a research chemist for National Steel Corporation for 12 years and taught secondary and post-secondary science and math classes for more than 20 years. Her research includes an analysis of organic farming regulations and environmental issues impacting the Appalachian region of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. She lives near Tappan Lake in an eco- log home that she and her husband built in 2001. Her hobbies include running, gardening, sewing and doing fun things with her granddaughters.
This opinion piece was originally published in The Times Leader on May 13, 2023.