The Center for Biological Diversity, in conjunction with the usual team of fringe anti-fracking activists — the Ohio Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), Athens County Fraction Action Network (ACFAN) and the Buckeye Environmental Network — recently put out a press release announcing they are again protesting the upcoming Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sale of federal minerals in the Wayne National Forest (WNF) slated for March 23.
The upcoming sale is for 1,186 acres — all of which are located in Monroe County, home to some of the best dry gas Utica Shale wells in the state. This latest “protest” against the sale comes after the group protested the first sale in December and filed a notice of intent to sue the BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all in an effort to stop leasing in the Wayne. While anti-fracking activists may try to spin this protest as “new,” it is anything but, as all of their concerns have been addressed and their false claims refuted repeatedly by the BLM. As these groups continue to try to litigate their debunked talking points in the court of public opinion in an attempt to garner headlines, the facts are quite clear that the debate is over before it even started, considering all of the most recent protests (outlined below) were denied by the U.S. Department of Interior in a decision rendered on Dec. 12, 2016,
“After a careful review, it has been determined that all of the protested Lease Sale Parcels described in the December Sale Notice may be offered at the December Lease Sale. The protests to all Lease Sale Parcels are denied.” (Emphasis Added)
And yet, here we go again. The most recent not-so-new protest against the March lease sale makes three key arguments, all of which were addressed by both the final Environmental Assessment (EA), as well as the Dec. 12, 2016, response which denied all of the same issues. It’s not surprising that these activists continue to circulate press releases and debunked talking points. After all, they have admitted that actually reading the Environmental Assessment was just too time consuming and “confusing” for them. Recall that the same group protesting the March sale said (about the Environmental Assessment),
“We also can’t expect everyone to read the confusing documents and make any sense of them by themselves.”
To be clear, the Environmental Assessment is 209 pages and the response to the December protest adds another 38 pages of rebuttal. And since it’s apparently too “confusing” for these activists to actually read, we will address each of their three main issues in the not-so-new protest and the responses to each which have already been addressed by the BLM, both the in EA and again reinforced in the BLM’s December decision.
Protest: “Our protest challenges the Bureau’s disturbing practice of favoring fracking industry interests over clean water, wildlife and human health.”
BLM response (page 27):
Protest: “the federal environmental assessment for the lease auction failed to fully disclose fracking’s effects on the national forest…the government failed to study the increased surface disturbance.”
BLM response (page 26):
Protest: “the Bureau failed to adequately address the potential impacts from the proposed oil and gas leasing on species that are federally designated as threatened or endangered with extinction, including the Indiana bat, fanshell, pink mucket pearly mussel, sheepnose mussel and snuffbox mussel.”
BLM response: (page 30 &31):
The only tangible action these anti-fracking activists are accomplishing with this most recent media stunt is wasting taxpayer dollars by forcing a government agency to respond to their recycled protests. As one can clearly see, the BLM continues to address their concerns and refute their false claims. The irony of this waste of time and taxpayer money is that, simultaneously, the leasing of federal minerals has already brought in $1.7 million, with the upcoming March sale slated to surpass the December sale. In short, as fringe environmental activists seek to sue the federal government, bog down federal employees with paperwork, and waste taxpayer dollars, the oil and natural gas industry (through the very thing they are trying to stop) is bringing in millions to government coffers.