Ohio state law allows the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to lease Ohio state parks and public lands for fracking. But there are criteria that ODNR and the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission must consider before leases are signed and fracking legally begins.
Oil and gas companies make massive amounts of money from fracking and share negligible amounts with Ohio communities that bear the brunt of fracking’s negative health and ecological impacts. Companies Shell, BP, Chevron, Total Energies and ExxonMobil exploited the Ukraine war by exporting oil and methane gas while domestic demand was down last year, resulting in $200 billion in Big Oil profits in 2022. They use fracking donations and STEM school-based public relations programs for economically-distressed school districts across Ohio watershed fracking territory as a Big Oil carrot to rationalize the destruction of our pristine, taxpayer-funded parks and public lands.
Fracking has not been a job creator for local communities, either. Jobs created went largely to skilled out-of-state workers, and the number of permanent jobs has been negligible. In Ohio, according to a 2021 jobs survey by the Ohio River Valley Institute, seven major producing counties lost 8.4% of their jobs and 5.4% of their population since fracking began there. Personal income did increase 8.8%, but that trailed both Ohio and the U.S.
The reality is, there is no amount of money high enough to compensate people for the negative impacts from fracking. In fact, the long-term economic effects of fracking may turn rural Ohio into an ecological wasteland that people will flee.
Toxic chemicals unregulated by the state or federal government in wastewater include methanol, ethelyne glycol, and propargyl alcohol, which cause cancer, increased asthma and early death for children and the elderly. New research also links poisoned fracking water with endocrine disruption and reproductive and developmental toxicity. An estimated 21,000 to 30,000 people in rural communities in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania will have their health negatively affected by fracking and its effects on shallow groundwater for drinking and other domestic purposes.
Couple this with the fact that fracking will likely jeopardize Ohio’s reputation as a great place to visit and its $47 billion tourism industry. In 2021, Ohio captured 219 million visitors into and within the state and supported 411,000 jobs. But fracking brings in dust, noise, and ruins habitats for plants, animals and insects. It poisons our drinking water and contributes to more than 25 percent of all methane gas emissions. Methane contributes heavily to rising temperatures and long-term global warming.
Tourists have a choice to visit any state park they wish, and logic says they want to enjoy clean streams and rivers, waterfalls and beautiful meadows and woodlands. Once fracking occurs in our 800,000 acres of 75 state parks, state forests and wildlife lands, plus 2.5 million acres of water, who in their right minds would choose Ohio parks for a family vacation?
Compatibility with current land uses
Save Ohio Parks believes fracking is diametrically opposed to the mission of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. ODNR was founded in 1949 to develop and wisely use the “the natural resources of the state, to the end that the health, happiness and wholesome enjoyment of life of the people of Ohio may be encouraged.” The beauty and serenity of our parks are not compatible with the noise, odor and ugliness of fracking operations and subsequent heavy truck traffic around parks. Oil and gas development in and under our public natural areas is in direct conflict with public enjoyment and public health.
If fracking leases are approved by ODNR, immense negative environmental impacts will occur on and under Ohio state parks and public lands. Not only will timber be cut, and plant, animal and insect habitats destroyed, those populations will diminish or die off. Most importantly, surface water in rivers, lakes and streams will be poisoned by unregulated toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid. Physicians for Social Responsibility has also documented that chemicals used by the oil and gas industry in Ohio since 2013 include PFAS, known as “forever chemicals.”
Adverse geological impacts
Low-level earthquakes in the Appalachian Basin, which includes eastern Ohio, are caused by fracking, according to new research by Michael Brudzinski and his research team in the Department of Geology and Earth Science at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The research was presented at the April 2023 annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.
Brudzinski and the scientific community are concerned in general about the potential for earthquakes from fracking wastewater. While fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, often below the fracked rock layer, water pressure can leak into faults in deeper, older rocks. This water can create more space between two sides of a fault, allowing the fault to slip.
Their research indicates that the more fracking water is injected, the larger the earthquakes could become, including recent 4 and 5 level earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma that have caused damage. Eastern Ohio in the Mahoning Valley, where fracking has already occurred, has a history of low-level earthquakes related to fracking and its wastewater sites.
In 2012, the Northstar fluid injection well in Youngstown was shut down after a series of earthquakes, one of those with a magnitude of 4.0. A few months earlier, a series of earthquakes in Poland Township resulted in a temporary moratorium on drilling and fracturing.
Impact on visitors
Will Ohioans and tourists want to hike, bike, camp, fish, bird and swim in areas where the thump-thump of fracking rigs inundate the landscape at 70 decibels, 24 hours a day and drown out birdsong as well as conversation? Where a fracking rig accident means oil slicks on Ohio lakes and streams and fish and animal die-offs? Where hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas is released into the air, accelerating rising temperatures and global warming?
Fracking will chase away Ohio visitors, not attract them. After all, who could relax, camp, picnic or swim with family and friends in the equivalent of an environmental hellscape?
H.B. 507 is based on a false premise– that the desire Big Oil has for subsurface mineral rights to Marcellus and Utica shale gas under our state parks and public lands should outweigh the rights of the people of Ohio to enjoy our natural parks and public lands in their pristine and protected states.
Does the Ohio Revised Code say anywhere that our public lands belong to the 30 Ohio senators and representatives who sponsored and co-sponsored his bill? No, it does not. Ohio’s public lands are owned, maintained and financially supported by all Ohioans. They are held in the public trust.
Comments or objections from residents of the state and other users
The Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission consists of four people: two members from the oil and gas industry; one from conservation; and one from the finance/real estate sector. Its members are appointed by the governor, and half the commission represents Big Oil interests.
Where are the geologists; the climatologists; the chemists, the experts on soils, insects, animals and birds? The commission has not been publicly supportive, nor responsive to citizen concerns about the dangers of fracking in our sacred outdoor spaces. It’s also doubtful they have the expertise to account for the complicated matrix of fracking’s true consequences.
When this law was signed in January 2023, the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission at ODNR offices in Columbus held a series of monthly public meetings where residents from across the state attended and expressed concerns about fracking. While many questions have been asked, very few reassuring or definitive answers have been provided to the public yet.
Submit your concerns and questions today to the commission about fracking to the commission at email@example.com.