In a bipartisan move to support the preservation of Ohio’s state parks and public lands, former Ohio First Ladies Hope Taft and Frances Strickland have written letters to the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC) stating that they oppose fracking.
Hope Taft of Spring Valley, is the wife of former Gov. Robert Taft, a Republican. Robert Taft served as Ohio’s 67th governor of Ohio from 1999 to 2007.
Frances Strickland of Columbus is the wife of former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat. He served as Ohio’s 68th governor from 2007 to 2011.
“As you make your impactful decision about fracking in Salt Fork State Park and Wolf Run State Park, I ask you to keep two major points in mind,” said Strickland in her letter. “First, saving Salt Fork and Wolf Run state parks from fracking is a long-term good for the many, while whatever purported benefits there might be to allow fracking are short-lived and for the few. Secondly, permitting fracking amounts to placing corporate interests above that of human well-being. Please honor the intent behind preservation. State and federal natural preserves provide the main opportunities the human spirit has to commune with the natural wonders of life and to be reminded of things greater than ourselves.
“Protect the few natural sanctuaries we’ve managed to hang onto, not only for today but for generations to come. Thank you for treating this as the soul-sixed decision that it is.”
Hope Taft said one of her earliest memories of moving to Ohio was a trip to Salt Fork State Park in the 1970s. She said she and her husband visited Salt Fork many times since then.
“Part of its charm was the arrival into this natural area,” she said in her letter. “I remember being thankful that Ohio had the foresight to protect this land and the views to and from it. I hope you will not allow that view to be ruined by fracking and oil equipment.
“Little did I know then that one day I would be first lady of the state and could be proud that all could enjoy Ohio’s parks without the incursion of non-natural build environments to impede the views,” she added. “Little did I know at the time that I would come to understand the value of the free eco-services nature provides us and the importance of keeping the land open and undisturbed to absorb the water and replenish the aquifer so we will have water to drink and provide life to our crops and us all.
“Fracking and oil wells will disturb the superb balance nature has developed and make us all poorer for it. The financial gain of a few should not override the pleasure of the majority and the system of renewal that has been provided us by nature.
“Fracking brings with it major disturbance of the land, pollution of the ground and its water, and loss of home to wildlife, the beginning of our food chain and many other negative consequences. We are robbing our own future if this is allowed to move forward.
“Please carefully consider all the consequences, including the negative and unintended ones in your deliberations.”
Bipartisan agreement on saving Ohio parks
Despite some political differences, the two women are friends and encourage conversations about politics and leadership through demonstrations of kindness, friendship and civility.
Taft has been involved with having Native American Earthworks in Newark and Chillicothe added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, which includes sites like the Pyramids, Stonehenge and Taj Mahal. Criteria the world commission is concerned about are the views to and from these mounds.
Vistas and viewscapes are very important, Taft said. Since that program was modeled after the U.S. Park Service and our state parks are modeled after the U.S. Park system, she said we should follow their researched advice and protect our views, too.
Strickland has been promoting her recently reissued children’s book, “The Little Girl Who Grew Up to Be Governor,” according to the Athens Messenger. The former first lady told a reporter she hopes her revised and reissued children’s book about the life of Kentucky’s first woman governor, Martha Layne Collins, will encourage civility.
Under a new state law now in effect, 14 parcels, including Salt Fork State Park and Wolf Run state parks, and Valley Run and Zepernick wildlife areas, are under consideration to be fracked for natural gas by the oil and gas industry.
Salt Fork State Park of Lore City, Ohio, is first on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) list to be fracked. An unnamed oil and gas company wants to frack the entire 20,000-acre park– 425 parcels of land in six townships in Guernsey County– with an unspecified number of frack pads in unknown locations as close as 400 feet from park borders.
Massive carbon pollution from Ohio shale play
Salt Fork and Wolf Run are located over Ohio’s vast reserves of Utica and Marcellus Shale, which the gas and oil industry covets.
Eastern and southeastern Ohio is at ground zero when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and worldwide.
Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions), a nonprofit coalition that independently tracks climate emissions in real time, ranks the Marcellus shale region at the nexus of eastern and southeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York as second in the nation and fourth worldwide for greenhouse gas emissions.
Those emissions include methane from oil and gas fracking operations and transportation. The Utica shale region, where Wolf Run is located, is ranked seventh in the U.S. and 29th globally for greenhouse gas emissions.
The top three greenhouse gas emitters worldwide are China, the U.S. and India. These three countries contribute 42.6 percent of total emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.
The top five oil and gas companies in the world, which include Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, TotalEnergies and Chevron, reported about $200 billion in 2022 profits at a time when the rest of the world experienced a global energy crisis. In 2022, total annual U.S. natural gas exports were the highest on record, reports the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with the U.S an annual net exporter of natural gas since 2016.
Citizens demand no fracking in our parks
Save Ohio Parks is an all-volunteer, citizens group dedicated to stopping fracking in Ohio state parks and public lands.
“Ohioans should be outraged that their sacred state parks, which were created in 1949 to be preserved for the health and recreation of the public, are threatened by fracking. Fracking will industrialize beautiful rural areas,” said Jenny Morgan, a steering committee member of Save Ohio Parks.
“Fracking is known to cause increased asthma and rare cancers. It destroys animal, plant and insect habitats and drains lakes, rivers and streams of millions of gallons of surface water per fracked well. That water is poisoned during the fracking process by unregulated toxic chemicals, and the produced water so contaminated afterward it must be trucked away and stored underground, effectively taking it out of surface water supplies forever. In essence, there is no need except corporate greed to frack Ohio’s state parks.”
The deadline to submit citizen comments on fracking to the ODNR’s Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, which is tasked with permitting or denying fracking in nominated parcels, is Sept. 25 for Salt Fork State Park. The deadline to submit comments for a third Salt Fork nomination, which includes nine well pads, is Sept. 16.
The OGLMC, which will permit or deny fracking, will discuss the parcels at its next meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 18 at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources office, 2045 Morse Road in Columbus. The public is urged to attend.
Save Ohio Parks asks Ohioans write personal emails to the OGLMC stating their views on fracking to: Commission.Clerk@oglmc.ohio.gov.
Subject lines should include the headline “Nomination #23-DNR-0009 for the Salt Fork application nomination, and “Nomination #23-DNR-0010” for the third Salt Fork nomination.
To learn more about fracking in Ohio state parks and public lands, visit the Save Ohio Parks website at https://www.saveohioparks.org. To learn details about the two state parks and two wildlife areas on the list to be fracked, along with other parcels, visit https://www.saveohioparks.org.