Athens City Council Against Proposed Drilling In Wayne National Forest

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Updated 3:15 p.m.:

Athens County Commissioners have joined Athens City Council members in protesting the leasing of national forest land.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason told WOUB News the council's letter was discussed at today's regular commission meeting.  Eliason says all the commissioners agreed to send a similar letter to the Bureau of Land Management expressing concern about the leasing of Wayne National Forest land for hydraulic fracturing.

The commissioner's letter was faxed to the agency this afternoon.

Copies of both letters are available below.

Athens City Council is sending a letter to protest the lease of more than 3300 acres of the Wayne National Forest for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to auction off parts of the Wayne in December.

The majority of the land — 2623 acres — is in Athens County along the Hocking River and nearby tributaries.

More than 500 acres are in Perry County, and about 150 acres are in Gallia County.

According to an environmental group, The Buckeye Forest Council, the parcels in Athens and Perry Counties sit atop the Utica shale, which the oil and gas industry is currently developing using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Council member Elahu Gosney says the proximity of the drilling to the river could have negative consequences.

"We're concerned that an unregulated drilling activity near the water supply in our county would in the short and long term potentially threaten the purity of our drinking water supply here in Athens," he says.

Council member Nancy Bain says the environmental impacts have not been studied properly.

"When federal lands are leased, they shouldn't have a negative impact on the water supply of the city of Athens," Bain says. "I think they did not do a full environmental review. They used a 2006 forest plan, which explicitly stated that it didn't cover horizontal fracking."

Bain says the goal of the letter is for an environmental assessment to be done prior to any drilling.