By Austin Warehime
The Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, empowered by state law, appears set to allow fracking in Ohio’s state parks. Salt Fork is the first and primary target for fracking companies. Environmentalists will tell you about the obvious threats to Guernsey County’s drinking water, air and ecosystem. However, you don’t have to believe in climate change or anti-frack science to oppose the plans to frack Salt Fork.
This is about more than the environment. This is about eastern Ohio standing its ground and protecting its precious resources.
Fracking has financially changed the lives of a few in eastern Ohio and Guernsey County. I don’t think one cent of financial gain is worth the devastation to the environment. The beauty of this movement is that you do not have to agree with me about the environment to fight with me and Save Ohio Parks (saveohioparks.org).
Save Ohio Parks fundamentally believes fracking publicly-owned lands is wrong. Whether you are concerned about the environment or just want to have a nearby natural oasis untouched by human development, it doesn’t matter to Save Ohio Parks. You can join the fight.
You can show the rest of the state eastern Ohio is tired of being treated as a money extraction tool for the rest of the state. The state legislature blessed fracking on public lands knowing that almost 100% of the fracking would take place east of Interstate 77. Most of the supporters in Columbus (and Oklahoma and Texas) will never have to see the rigs and truck traffic. What they knew was tax dollars would come back to for the big cities and wealthy counties to distribute to themselves.
State leaders have made it clear they do not wish to invest in the future of eastern Ohio. The state was integral in pushing to have the Intel microchip plant placed in central Ohio. The state has created a plan to build out a vast network of EV charging stations. The state seems to know where the future of energy is headed: electrification. Despite this, the state has created a plan to continue oil and gas extraction in eastern Ohio without offering any plan for transitioning eastern Ohio into the future economy. If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s the playbook that left rural Appalachian communities devalued, deforested, and economically devastated when the world transitioned away from coal.
If eastern Ohio wants to prevent a repeat of history, now is the time to act. Now is the time for eastern Ohio to demand it be included in the plan for the future and not left behind again. Now is the time for eastern Ohio to demand that its beautiful natural resources – – our state parks, forests, wildlife areas, and public lands – – remain natural oases for the people to enjoy, untouched by an unregulated industry that leaves a trail of clear-cutting, toxic chemicals, and more plastic in its wake.
If you are with us, call your representatives, talk to your local elected officials, and talk to your friends to let them know about the State of Ohio’s next attempt to rob eastern Ohio and encourage all of them to oppose fracking on Ohio’s public lands. Connect with Save Ohio Parks to join the fight.
Austin Warehime is an attorney in Cincinnati who grew up in Guernsey County, near Salt Fork State Park.
This opinion piece was originally published in The Daily Jeffersonian on July 23, 2023.