As hinted earlier this year
, environmental groups have formally filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management over their policies to allow natural gas fracking in Wayne National Forest. Last year, the federal government began auctioning public lands
in that forest for the express purpose of spurring drilling operations there.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and Sierra Club teamed up to mount a complaint
against the agencies' failure to "analyze threats to public health, endangered species and the climate before auctioning off more than 670 acres of forest land."
Those acres were sold last December, and another 1,180 were auctioned in March 2017. More leases are planned for thousands of acres of public land in Ohio and surrounding areas. Note that not just any private citizen can purchase this land for, say, recreational or environmental reasons. These parcels are explicitly meant for natural gas drilling.
There has been no actual environmental impact study on the effects of fracking in the Wayne, which is the primary contention of the conservation groups. Whether auctioned land or contiguous private land is being drilled, the groups say, the consequences were willfully ignored. The groups insist that this failure amounts to a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Just last month, fracking operations were halted
in the aftermath of a 3.0-magnitude earthquake within the Wayne. (See below.)
"We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity in a public statement. “The Ohio and Little Muskingum rivers provide precious water to millions of people in Ohio and downstream states. Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who depend on this water.” (Much of Wayne National Forest sits in Monroe County, on the southeasternmost edge of Ohio.)