Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 15, 2016

Contact:  Wendy Park, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7138,
Loraine McCosker, Ohio Sierra Club, (740) 590-8474,
Brian Kaiser, Ohio Environmental Council, (614) 487-5837,

Protest Calls on BLM to Reject Fracking Plan in Ohio's Wayne National Forest

Feds Fail to Address Climate Change Impact, Danger to Groundwater, Wildlife Habitat 

ATHENS, Ohio— Conservation groups just filed an administrative protest asking the Bureau of Land Management to halt an oil and gas lease auction next month in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest due to its failure to address concerns over fracking, climate change and effects on endangered species.

The plan to allow dangerous hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on 1,600 acres of the state’s only national forest would degrade streams and groundwater, fragment wildlife habitat and worsen climate change, the groups said. The BLM also ignored the likelihood that opening these parcels to development would facilitate more fossil fuel extraction on adjacent private land.

The groups highlighted the Bureau’s failure to address groundwater and surface-water contamination risks from wastewater disposal and other fracking operations.

“This will be bad for wildlife, bad for recreation and bad for the health of Ohio's only National Forest,” said Nathan Johnson of the Ohio Environmental Council. “Ohioans don't want heavy industrial development on their public lands. There’s a better path forward — one that builds clean energy jobs for local residents and doesn't destroy their air, land and water in the process.”

“The BLM failed to do its duty to take a ‘hard look’ at the impact these new fossil fuel leases would have on other fracking on private land nearby. In fact, the agency seems to be actively facilitating this new extraction,” said Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “At this critical time, the Obama administration should act to halt all new leasing of public lands for oil and gas fracking.”

“The proposed Wayne National Forest leasing in Appalachia Ohio continues the extraction paradigm of centuries past,” said Loraine McCosker of the Ohio Sierra Club. “The legacy of this past extraction continues to negatively impact southeast Ohio economies. There are clean energy and local business initiatives that this proposal will threaten. We simply must demand that the Wayne not be leased by the BLM and that the Forest Service withdraw these parcels for leasing."

“Public lands are for the people, not for the benefit of Big Oil and Gas,” said Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “Drilling for oil and gas means more fracking, and fracking means poisoning our air and water, and threatening the health of our communities and our environment. At a time when clean energy like solar and wind is proving to be safest, healthiest and most cost-effective way to power our country, it's high time we recognized that we need to leave dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

The protest also states that the BLM failed to adequately address the potential impacts from the proposed oil and gas leasing on species that are federally designated as threatened or endangered with extinction, including the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, fanshell, pink mucket pearly mussel, sheepnose mussel and snuffbox mussel.

“The government’s plan is remarkably shortsighted in its failure to consider the full extent of fracking and wastewater disposal that could occur throughout the forest.” Park said. “Water quality and wildlife will suffer regardless of where these activities occur.”

Groups involved in the protest are the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Heartwood, Ohio Environmental Council and Sierra Club.

The American public owns nearly 650 million acres of federal public land and more than 1.7 billion acres of Outer Continental Shelf — and the fossil fuels beneath them. This includes federal public land, which makes up about a third of the U.S. land area, and oceans like Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard. These places and the fossil fuels beneath them are held in trust for the public by the federal government; federal fossil fuel leasing is administered by the Department of the Interior.

Over the past decade, the combustion of federal fossil fuels has resulted in nearly a quarter of all U.S. energy-related emissions. A 2015 report by EcoShift Consulting, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, found that remaining federal oil, gas, coal, oil shale and tar sands that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution. As of earlier this year, 67 million acres of federal fossil fuel were already leased to industry, an area more than 55 times larger than Grand Canyon National Park containing up to 43 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution.

Last year Sens. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders (I-Vt.) and others introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act (Senate Bill 2238) legislation to end new federal fossil fuel leases and cancel non-producing federal fossil fuel leases. Days later President Obama canceled the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, saying, “Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.”

Download the September “Keep It in the Ground” letter to President Obama. 

Download Grounded: The Presidents Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground (this report details the legal authorities with which a president can halt new federal fossil fuel leases). 

Download The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels (this report quantifies the volume and potential greenhouse gas emissions of remaining federal fossil fuels) and The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions fact sheet. 

Download Over-leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Outlast Global Carbon Budgets.

Download Public Lands, Private Profits, a report about the corporations that are profiting from climate-destroying fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition calling on the Obama administration to halt all new offshore fossil fuel leasing.

Download the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal petition with 264 other groups calling for a halt to all new onshore fossil fuel leasing.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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