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Signs from environmental groups protesting the potential fracking in the Wayne National Forest at a public meeting held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Nov. 18. (File)

Environmental groups protested potential fracking in the Wayne National Forest at public meeting

The meeting, hosted by the Bureau of Land Management, came after the announcement that it is considering about 31,900 acres of land in Wayne National Forest for oil and gas purposes, including land in Athens County.

A public meeting about leasing land in the Wayne National Forest for oil and gas development was cut short Wednesday night after protesters with Appalachia Resist took the floor while an official from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management addressed the crowd.

The meeting, hosted by the federal agency, came after the announcement that the agency is considering about 31,900 acres of land in Wayne National Forest for oil and gas purposes, including land in Athens County. The bureau will perform environmental assessments to determine the impact of using the land for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The meeting began with officials from the bureau speaking with people about leasing land in the forest and allowing people to ask questions. During the meeting, members of environmental groups began speaking out against fracking in the national forest.

Members of Appalachia Resist, a group of Athens and Meigs County residents who oppose fracking and injection wells, were present at the meeting. Crissa Cummings, who helped plan the protest, said planning took about three weeks.

“We all work full time and have families,” she said, which limited their planning time to four meetings.

The Buckeye Forest Council, an Ohio environmental organization, also helped support the group. Teresa Mills, the fracking coordinator for the council, said she works with community and grassroots groups and gives them information to help their cause.

“Whatever the communities need us to do, we do," Mills said. "We don’t go into a community and tell them what to do."

Becky Clutter, who formed the mineral rights group Landowners for Energy Access and Safe Exploration (LEASE), said her land sits “in the middle of the forest,” which prompted her to act in support of allowing land owners to lease their mineral rights.  

“I’m just a land owner," Clutter said. "I’m not industry. I equally came here to get information."

Clutter said new fracking technology causes less surface damage to the forest than convention wells, making it favorable to land owners.

“That to me is way better than dotting my property with a whole bunch of pipes sticking out every 40 acres,” Clutter said.

Local business owner Sara Quoia criticized the open-house format of the meeting and said it should have included a public forum where citizens could make comments that would be on public record. She toted a sign reading “Keep the frack out of my water.” Several protesters held signs that said “No consent.”

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“These minerals are part of an ecology that I feel citizens have a duty to protect,” Quoia said.

Abe Alassaf, one of the approximately 15 people with LEASE who attended the event, said those with private property should be able to do what they want with it. According to a previous Post report, Alassaf announced last month he will run for the state representative seat for Ohio's 94th House district in 2016.

"Cheap, reliable energy makes things better for everyone," Alassaf said.

@norajaara

nj342914@ohio.edu

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