An oil spill and a methane gas leak occurring within a week of each other in pristine, rural eastern Ohio have citizen environmentalists at Save Ohio Parks up in arms.
“There have been two oil and gas accidents in Ohio within the last week — and yet the oil industry wants to surround our public lands with frack pads,” said Cathy Cowan Becker, co-founder at Save Ohio Parks. “What if this had happened next to a state park or wildlife area? How will the ODNR and OEPA evacuate an entire park full of campers, hikers, swimmers, hunters, and tourists? How will the air and water pollution affect these pristine spaces? We cannot entrust our public lands to an industry that extracts them for profit.”
July marks the height of Ohio’s tourism season. Tourism generates an estimated $47 billion per year for the state.
News 5 Cleveland reported that a methane gas leak at a well pad in Columbiana County, Ohio, caused the evacuation of 450 people within a mile radius of a well pad accident on Tuesday. The Columbiana well pad accident occurred 20 miles northeast of Zepernick Wildlife Area, which is on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ list of state parks and wildlife areas nominated for fracking under a new state law kickstarting fracking in Ohio state parks, forests, wildlife areas, and public lands.
ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management was responding to the accident, which occurred when a third-party contractor struck a wellhead on the pad. Hilcorp Energy Company reported that emergency shutdown occurred for 12 wells on the pad, a statement by Gov. Mike DeWine said.
A claims hotline has been established and residents are urged to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported Monday, July 10, that an oil spill on Tuscarawas River near Barberton, Ohio, was killing wildlife and fish. A bicyclist noticed the spill on Wednesday, July 5, and reported it to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA). He later posted video of the spill on social media Monday when he noticed a barrier designed to stop oil on the river was compromised and allowed oil to travel down river.
FOX 8 reported that oil recycler Noble Oil of North Carolina was responsible for the motor oil spill that is turning the water black and killing wildlife. OEPA is leading the cleanup.
“Once again the oil and gas industry proves it cannot operate without accidents that endanger the public and our environment,” said Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., an ecologist, research chemist and volunteer with Save Ohio Parks. “Yet Ohio’s politicians think this industry can be trusted to frack our precious state parks.”
Save Ohio Parks is an all-volunteer grassroots group dedicated to stopping fracking under Ohio state parks and public lands. The ODNR’s Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC) is accepting citizen comments as it considers allowing Salt Fork State Park, Wolf Run State Park, Zepernick and Valley Run Wildlife Areas to be fracked by the oil and gas industry.
Salt Fork is Ohio’s largest state park at 20,000 acres, with hiking, camp sites, a horse camp, Hosak’s Cave, and the state’s largest inland beach of over 2,500 feet on Salt Fork Lake. An unnamed oil company wants to set up 16 well pads around the perimeter of the park to house 89 frack wells that they want to frack an incredible 281 parcels in most of the park.
Wolf Run State Park is known for its large campground and fishing and swimming at Wolf Run Lake. The application to frack Wolf Run State Park does not specify the number of proposed frack pads or wells to frack the entire state park as well as over 1,000 acres surrounding the park including dozens of homes, the Ohio State University Eastern Agricultural Research Station, and the village of Belle Valley.
Valley Run Wildlife Area is situated immediately adjacent to the large Harrison Hills Association Campground, where residents live for most or all year round. The oil and gas industry wants to frack all 302 acres of the wildlife area as well as some parcels under the campground.
Zepernick Wildlife Area, home to Zepernick Lane and Ruff Pond, is a popular boating and fishing destination. The oil and gas industry has submitted three applications to frack 66 acres of its land. Zepernick is only 20 miles from the latest fracking spill.
Fracking Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, and other public lands would be dirty and dangerous in addition to being unregulated by state or federal government. Fracking would destroy park and public land plant, insect and animal habitats by rapidly industrializing rural areas; and pollute the air, water and soils. Methane gas leaks from fracked wells would also accelerate rising temperatures and climate warming.
Toxic chemicals, including PFAS, associated with fracking are known to cause cancers, reduced fertility and developmental defects in children. A 2022 report by Physicians for Social Responsibility reported that PFAS have been used in wells in eight Ohio counties since 2013: Belmont; Carrol; Columbiana; Guernsey; Harrison; Jefferson; Monroe and Washington.
To submit comments on oil and gas industry applications to frack Ohio state parks and wildlife areas, email Commission.Clerk@oglmc.ohio.gov. The deadline to submit comments regarding Salt Fork State Park, Valley Run Wildlife Area, and Zepernick Wildlife Area is July 20. The deadline to submit comments regarding Wolf Run is July 28.
Salt Fork State Park is in Guernsey County; Wolf Run is in Noble County; Zepernick is in Columbiana County; and Valley Run is in Carroll County.
For more information on how fracking affects Ohioans’ health, climate, environment, communities, democracy, and Ohio law, visit https://www.saveohioparks.org/issues.
For a list of Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, and other public lands nominated for fracking, visit https://saveohioparks.org/parcels.
Photo: Oil-covered goose in the Tuscarawas River new Wolf Creek, about 20 miles northeast of Zepernick Wildlife Area, a popular fishing destination nominated for fracking by the oil and gas industry. Screenshot from video by James Carnahan.