A large billboard has been placed by anti-fracking extremists across from the Wayne National Forest (“the Wayne”) headquarters on U.S. Rt. 33 near Nelsonville, Ohio. The billboard declares, “Frack our national forest? No WAY(ne)!” in stark text next to a picture of an owl and a link to known misinformation site frackingexposed.com. Fracking Exposed, a group connected to the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), is renting the billboard. It seeks to discourage federal officials from opening parts of the Wayne to fracking and other deep-shale oil and gas activities.
AFCAN members have been active in opposing fracking and related oil-and-gas activities in Wayne County and elsewhere. They have filed appeals on permit approvals of wastewater injection wells and have strongly opposed Forest Service and BLM consideration of opening the Wayne to horizontal drilling. At least one ACFAN member cited the commitments the U.S. made at the climate summit in Paris late last year as a reason to oppose fracking in the Wayne, ignoring the significantly smaller GHG emissions profile of natural gas compared to coal.
The group is promoting the complete cessation of oil and gas leasing on public lands, which would have devastating effects on local and state economies in fossil fuel-producing regions, destroy tens of thousands of energy production and associated jobs, and increase the cost of energy. Landowners have expressed concern about their property rights, noting that they are unable to lease their mineral rights without nearby national forest land also being available for leasing.
BLM announced in January that it was preparing an environmental assessment to consider whether to lease parcels in the Wayne for oil and gas exploration and development. The parcels under consideration comprise 18,800 acres in the Wayne in Washington and Monroe counties. Federal officials were previously forced to end an informational session on drilling in the Wayne in November, because of what they called “incivility” on the part of anti-fracking activists who clashed with those promoting the mineral rights held by property owners.