A press release received from the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save our Water and the FreshWater Accountability Project:
At its upcoming February 15 board meeting, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is expected to lease the 3,500-acre Seneca Lake reservoir for unconventional shale gas drilling, commonly referred to as “fracking” and also known as “high-volume, slick water, horizontal hydraulic fracturing” (HVHHF). The lease, negotiated by the MWCD with Antero Resources of Colorado, would allow the third largest inland body of water in Ohio to be subjected to HVHHF for the natural gas industry.
The MWCD plans to sign over almost 7,000 acres of mineral rights at Seneca Lake and the surrounding area. The conservancy district has already received signing bonuses of $40 million by leasing two other reservoirs, Clendening and Leesville in southeast Ohio. In addition, based upon projections provided by the gas industry, the MWCD touts that it could earn hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty revenues from these leases and others that are expected to be signed with the gas industry. Many are concerned that this will be at the cost of potential long-term damage to water quality and environmental flow in stark contrast to the conservancy district’s promise to provide water conservation and recreational opportunities in the watershed area.
This new revenue stream created by engaging in unconventional shale gas drilling stands to earn the MWCD windfall profits but at potentially devastating cost to the taxpayers, recreational lake users, area property owners and those who depend upon the lakes for drinking water and tourism income. As a political subdivision of the State of Ohio, the MWCD is leveraging public assets and the future of the district’s water supplies without public vote, input or ability to object. Property owners within the Muskingum Watershed are assessed through property taxes to pay into the MWCD justified by the assertion that the conservancy provides public benefit. This property tax assessment is controversial in itself because of the unequal way in which the taxes are assessed with some property owners paying more or less than others. There is a growing public consensus that the conservancy’s support of the gas drilling industry by leasing and selling water for profit negates this public benefit and justifies the retraction of the property tax assessment and refund of monies received through taxes by the MWCD.
Lea Harper of Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save our Water has repeatedly testified at MWCD Board Meetings to the concerns of other property owners. “We commissioned a report by a well-respected hydro geologist and provided it to the MWCD to substantiate our serious, legitimate concerns about the hazards of unconventional shale drilling and how it can destroy water quality and pollute with toxic chemicals and migrating methane. By drilling under reservoirs, this toxic material can eventually find a way to migrate into a reservoir, contaminating it even beyond the ability to remediate. Instead of spending the millions of dollars the conservancy district plans to receive by engaging in this risky and highly unregulated gas drilling industry, they should at least be required to rescind property taxes and place this new revenue stream in escrow for future remediation costs. The way it stands now, the MWCD could spend the money and require the public to pay for future cleanup costs, which could even exceed the money being received from the gas drilling industry now.”
“Based upon an outside expert assessment of existing subsurface conditions, it is expected that toxic fracking fluid chemicals will bubble upward through existing abandoned gas wells under Seneca Lake after horizontal hydraulic fracturing begins. This is expected to adversely impact the health of local water users by leaching methane and carcinogens, some of which may be radioactive. Remediation could be costly, if at all possible,” stated Paul Rubin of Hydroquest.
Atwood Lake reservoir is being seismically tested for future leasing, and other reservoirs such as Tappan and Piedmont are being offered to the gas drilling industry. The MWCD also considers requests to continue to sell millions of gallons of water needed for the drilling industry, thus permanently contaminating and removing vast quantities of freshwater from the area forever. Terry Lodge, attorney for concerned MWCD property owners, states: “There is no way that an agency, given public funds and public employee benefits should be able to engage in such destruction of valuable public resources. This is a total betrayal of important democratic values that has taken place historically because the MWCD answers to no one. The MWCD can make decisions that will obligate public monies for costly future remediation without accountability and responsibility. What the MWCD is doing to engage in and support the highly destructive and largely unregulated gas drilling industry is of questionable legality.”
The MWCD has chosen to ignore the many studies that show HVHHF can contaminate water, compromise air quality and cause detrimental human and animal health effects. Seneca Lake property owners are urged to obtain property value appraisals and water testing before drilling begins in anticipation of property value loss and/or water contamination that has happened in others areas where unconventional shale gas drilling has taken place.
The next MWCD board meeting on February 15 is at the McDonald Center in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Anyone who would like to protest the MWCD’s plans to lease another public reservoir for unconventional shale gas drilling is urged to attend to testify with their concerns.
Donations to go towards protecting Ohio’s freshwater resources from the hazards of unconventional shale gas drilling are accepted through the FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio at www.FWAPOH.com and are tax-deductible with Buckeye Forest Council as a fiscal sponsor. Any questions concerns or correspondence can be made through that website or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The FreshWater Accountability Project is committed to preserving clean water and to pre-empting possible environmental degradation while establishing accountability on behalf of those who may be detrimentally affected and deserve compensation if their water and quality of life are adversely affected by hydraulic fracturing activities, including injection wells and waste disposal, which also includes the spreading of “brine” (frack waste) on public roadways.
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.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
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.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.