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Ohio Utica Shale

Anti-drilling activists today address Muskingum Watershed district

By Bob Downing Published: October 19, 2012

Anti-drilling activists this morning urged the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District to halt all water sales to natural gas drillers and to stop leasing public land for drilling.

The request came from a national environmental group, Food & Water Watch, and a local grass-roots group, the Freshwater Accountability Project, at a protest and press conference at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse in New Philadelphia.

"This is an issue of public trust," said Alison Auciello of Food & Water Watch.

Later, about 25 activists attended the meeting of the district's governing board. About 15 of them addressed the board.

The district’s governing board took no action on the requests.

The district voted in June to halt water sales for drilling, pending completion of a study by the U.S. Geological Survey. That study is still incomplete.

One water sale had been approved earlier.

On Sept. 21, the board agreed to sell water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County and Piedmont lake, mostly in Belmont County, to drillers during the fall-winter drawdown when lakes are lowered annually. That angered the anti-drilling group.

Here is the activists' statement:

Today, Food & Water Watch and members of the citizen’s advocacy coalition Freshwater Accountability Project convened a protest and a press conference at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse, demanding that the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) protect the health, safety and welfare of watershed district residents by halting all water sales and the leasing of public land for hydraulic fracturing.

 
Alison Auciello, coalition member and organizer for Food & Water Watch said, “all water sales and leases for fracking should be subject to public comment, and the MWCD should put in place a requirement to address the comments they receive publicly and act accordingly. This is an issue of public trust.”
 
Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an unconventional natural gas drilling method that involves injecting under high pressure millions of gallons of water, silica sand and as many as 650 chemicals—some known carcinogens—underground to release natural gas and other hydrocarbons from hard rock formations.
 
Amid public opposition, the MWCD announced on June 7 a temporary halt to water sales for fracking pending completion of a U.S. Geological Survey study and an update to their water policy that would include public comment on leasing and water sales from the district.Despite their temporary moratorium, on September 21, the MWCD board of directors authorized new water sales.

According to the Freshwater Accountability Project, the MWCD could also implement a method of public comment that would only include water sales and leases of public land to the oil and gas industry deemed “major” by the MWCD staff.
 
Property owners within the Muskingum Watershed pay an added assessment on their property taxes each year to fund the MWCD, whose stated mission is abatement of flooding and conservation of the district’s resources for beneficial public uses. Although that does include industrial uses of the water, residents argue that the massive withdrawal and permanent contamination of water used in fracking, and the drilling process itself poses an unacceptable risk to the reservoirs that does not benefit the public.

Lea Harper of the Freshwater Accountability Project said, “MWCD has crossed the line from being a conservancy, to providing services to the oil and gas industry. We don’t know what they are doing until they’ve already done it, and that is a violation of my rights as someone who pays an assessment to fund the district. I should have the same access to, and influence with the MWCD that the oil and gas industry enjoys. This land and water belongs to the public, not the MWCD.”
 

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.