Prove your humanity

Around a hundred people held signs and shouted as an Ohio commission approved fracking under the state’s largest park and two wildlife areas in the eastern part of the state.

The five-member Oil and Gas Land Management Commission met to consider a dozen proposals to frack under state lands.

They faced a crowd of grandparents, students and others imploring them to deny the nominations and protect Ohio’s public lands. 

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Protestors at the meeting of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission in Columbus, November 15, 2023. Photo: Julie Grant/ The Allegheny Front

The commission started by approving an addendum to standard lease agreements for state parks and wildlife areas, with specifications for well pad locations, protection of water resources, and limitations on traffic, noise and light pollution from fracking operations. It also put limitations on fracking activities during hunting seasons in the spring and fall.

In another action, they approved additional requirements for the percentage of profits energy companies would owe the state from the natural gas liquids produced under public lands.

But when the commission approved a nomination to frack under Salt Fork, the room erupted with jeers and shouts accusing the members of putting short-term profit over their grandchildren’s right to enjoy the public lands.

One woman in the audience charged to the front of the meeting room, throwing a pile play money on the floor.

Six people sit in a beige conference room at small tables arranged in a horseshoe shape. On the left side, a woman stands behind a table holding a microphone.

The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission. Chair Ryan Richardson addresses the crowd of citizens. In front of the table is a pile of play money an activist threw on the floor.  Photo: Julie Grant/ The Allegheny Front

Commission chair Ryan Richardson implored them to stop the disturbance.

“I’m going to ask again that we can show respect to the commissioners,” she said. 

“No!” another woman yelled back. “Why should we show respect when you are not respecting us, and you’re giving away our land to profit-making oil and gas? Why should we sit here and let you do that?” 

Young activists from the Sunrise Movement and Climate Defiance from Athens, Oberlin and Columbus jumped in front of the crowd, blocking the view of the commissioners, and holding a large sign that read, “Commissioners: No Fracking Our Ohio Public Lands.” 

The commissioners took a brief recess and left the meeting room. 

When they reentered, they continued the meeting, even as citizens continued to stand right in front of them chanting slogans like “Public land is not for profit!” and “Save our parks!”

In the end, the commission approved three drilling nominations at Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County, three at Valley Run Wildlife Area in Carroll County, and one at Zepernick Wildlife Area in Columbiana County, as well as one property owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation in Belmont County. 

Nominations can go out to bid in January. 

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