Anti-fracking group asks judge for emergency order to bar oil and gas leases in park land

A group against fracking in Ohio’s state parks filed an emergency stay this week. The group is asking a Franklin County judge to issue an emergency order to stop the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission from awarding bids on several fracking projects.The Ohio Environmental Council is asking Franklin County Judge Jaiza Page to implement the emergency stay Friday ahead of a Monday meeting of the land management commission.

The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission filed a memo in opposition to the request for the emergency stay. The document is not yet available in court records.The commission’s agenda states they plan to discuss and possibly take action to approve or deny bids for oil and gas leases on land owned by the state over Utica Shale formations in several counties. That includes potential leases in Salt Fork State Park and the Zepernick and Valley Run wildlife areas.

The commission ruled last year that state parks can be leased by companies for oil and gas extraction. The Ohio Environmental Council, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Buckeye Environmental Network and the group Save Ohio Parks are appealing that decision in Franklin County. The commission argues the appeal should be dismissed.

The commission plans to review bids made on 12 proposed leases covering hundreds of acres and will consider some new proposals. Five are owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation, the seven that are owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are the projects subjected to the emergency stay request.Save Ohio Parks, a statewide volunteer group, plans to protest the meeting, which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday. It’s being held in the atrium of the Ohio Department of Public Safety Building, located at 1970 W. Broad St.

The meetings are usually held at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Morse Road in Columbus. WOSU asked the commission why it is being held there instead but have not yet received a response to that question.A press release from Save Ohio Parks indicates there are some expectations that the meeting could be disruptive.It states “…there may be a heavy police presence” and “warns audience members of possible arrest if they cause disruptions.”

It continues, “The Nov. 15 (oil and gas commission) meeting was called ‘raucous’ by media after attendees shouted against fracking Ohio’s state parks and public lands and protested the secretive nature of (the commission’s) process that muzzled the public’s right to speak at (the) meeting and engage in the democratic process.”Loraine McCosker, a steering committee member for Save Ohio Parks, explained the group’s opposition to the leases.

“Unless the judge grants the emergency stay, the commission is likely to award oil and gas bids to frack our state parks and public lands at this meeting. Anyone who cares about the damage fracking and fossil fuels cause to our health, climate, Ohio forests and natural places, our clean air and fresh water, or our democratic process should attend this meeting,” she said.Save Ohio Parks think “the state of Ohio has steamrolled over Ohioans’ concerns about fracking and ignored the science regarding the dangers of oil and gas production and its role in climate change.”