Protesters Shut Down Athens Meeting on Fracking in Wayne National Forest

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ATHENS – Opponents are pushing back as a federal agency again considers requests to open Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio to oil and gas drilling.

According to the Athens Messenger, protesters shut down a meeting in Athens concerning the possible lease of federal oil and gas rights in the Wayne National Forest.

The meeting at the Athens Community Center was shut down an hour early Wednesday as opponents to leasing began chanting against drilling on the Wayne while supporters chanted for more jobs.

The Buckeye Forest Council, Sierra Club, Athens County Fracking Action Networks and other advocacy groups have called for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to conduct a “full-scale environmental report” before allowing drilling beneath about 31,900 acres of the forest through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The bureau is reviewing whether the government owns mineral rights beneath those forest sections and assessing potential environmental risks. The last of a series of public meetings this week discussing industry interest and leasing is scheduled for Thursday.

Companies indicated an interest in drilling in the forest in 2011, but the bureau dropped the proposal due to concern over environmental impacts.