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Since 2011, Ohio has allowed companies to lease state land for oil and gas drilling.
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is drawing ire for its continued leasing of land for fracking.
Last year, the district, which stewards more than 56,000 acres of land, completed negotiations for an oil and gas lease for nearly 7,300 acres, the largest land lease to date on conservancy property. The five-year contract includes the drilling of at least fifteen wells.
Randi Pokladnik, an environmental scientist and member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, explains fracking comes with a host of air and water pollution risks, including the release of thousands of chemicals, which can end up in groundwater.
"You've got an industry that is basically, because of the Halliburton loophole, unregulated," Pokladnik pointed out. "So they don't have to disclose certain chemicals that they put in the frack fluid, because it's quote, unquote, private, and it's patented. So people don't even know for sure what's in that fluid."
The conservancy district argued revenues from leasing allow it to upgrade watershed facilities and campgrounds. Since 2011 Ohio has allowed companies to lease state land for oil and gas drilling. Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 507 into law, which makes it easier to approve licenses for companies seeking to extract natural resources from state lands.
James O'Reilly, volunteer professor in the department of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said conservancy districts were originally created to protect natural resources and the residents who depend on them.
"But in this case the Conservancy District is being used to remove a valuable resource without giving due consideration to the health of the public that is impacted," O'Reilly asserted.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, documented health issues associated with living near fracking sites include severe headaches, asthma, childhood leukemia, heart problems and birth defects.