Ohio environmental regulators face a lawsuit filed this week for failing to disclose details of a program allowing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling in state parks there.
According to a report from The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, the Ohio chapter of Sierra Club filed action this week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court after five months of hearing nothing from Ohio’s Dept. of Natural Resources, which is allowing the natural gas exploration process to take place in the state’s state parks. The lawsuit seeks the details of the program, which Sierra Club says the state’s DNR is failing to provide and will not give an explanation for refusing to comply with the request.
Fracking drilling in Ohio began garnering serious attention toward the end of last year when measurable earthquakes began shaking western portions of the state, including a 4.0 earthquake near Youngstown at the very end of the year. These earthquakes, including numerous minor tremors, are being blamed on the disposal of briny and toxic wastewater from the fracking process being emptied into underground injection disposal wells. Due to the pressure of the injections and the briny nature of the waste water, many believe that process is leading to numerous tremors for the surrounding areas.
The head of Ohio’s Sierra Club division believes the state’s DNR decision to allow fracking in state parks was made in “back room” dealings and believes Ohioans deserve to know the thought process behind allowing drilling. According to state laws, the Plain Dealer reports, any government agency must provide details of a decision such as this and if that decision is not part of the public record, the agency in question must provide written explanation as to why it can not provide the information. The Sierra Club has heard neither and decided to file a lawsuit against the DNR agency to compel it to disclose this information.
A DNR spokesperson told the newspaper the agency was still compiling information for the request but needed more time, despite that fact the request has been on the record for more than five months. A Plain Dealer government law expert called DNR’s ignorance of the Sierra Club request is “inane” and couldn’t provide explanation for the delay.
Ohio’s state government is acting like many others in the Mid Atlantic region, reluctant to disclose much detail into any deal that allows fracking drilling for natural gas deposits hidden in underground shale formations due to the myriad reports of its many dangers to the environment and public health. In neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia, residents and environmental advocates blame a boom in fracking drilling for various forms of water and air pollution, dangerous and deadly well blowouts, and a strain on natural resources. Lax regulations in those states have allowed fracking drillers near carte blanche to conduct fracking drilling there and it has led to problems for hundreds, if not thousands of residents and put natural resources serving millions at risk.
Residents living near fracking wells are more likely to suffer methane gas and other toxic contamination of their water wells, some even to the point where the well must be capped and an alternative source of fresh drinking water must be sought. Those nearest wells are also more likely to experience air pollution caused by the localized fracking operations.
Ohio’s legislature allowed fracking drilling in its state parks last year by creating the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission to oversee the dispersal of fracking leases. That group is drafting rules governing fracking drilling in those areas sitting atop the Utica shale formation in Ohio.