U.S. District Court Order vindicates environmental community, slams Wayne NF for frack leasing

Athens County’s Future Action Network aka ACFAN and Athens County Fracking Action Network

U.S. District Court Order vindicates environmental community,
slams Wayne NF for frack leasing

Athens OH March 16, 2020¬––U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson issued an Opinion and Order last week in Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. U.S. Forest Service et al., requiring the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to redo their environmental analysis of the potential harms from fracking in the Wayne National Forest. Judge Michael Watson said the agencies “demonstrated a disregard for the different types of impacts caused by fracking in the Forest. The agencies made decisions premised on a faulty foundation.” In his ruling Friday, the judge said the agencies ignored potential harm from fracking to endangered Indiana bats, waters of the Little Muskingum, and the region’s air quality. (Center’s pr and link to ruling at https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/court-stalls-fracking-leases-in-ohios-only-national-forest-2020-03-13/)

Heather Cantino, Athens County’s Future Action Network steering committee chair, involved in opposing Wayne frack leasing since 2011, stated, “The Order vindicates our community’s decades-long efforts, our broken-record appeals to the Wayne to use science and listen to public concerns. We have pointed out, since September 2011 when the Wayne first tried to lease for fracking, that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the Forest to use up-to-date science and listen to public concerns, especially on highly controversial environmental issues. Thousands of community members and a hundred thousand petitioners around the U.S. have spoken out against Wayne leasing.” Cantino added, “The Court slammed the Wayne for trying to build a case for frack leasing by stacking one ‘flimsy review’ on another equally inadequate one, like a house of cards. The House of Cards is finally falling! We thank the Center for Biological Diversity for its diligent work to legally challenge the Wayne, which led to this fantastic victory.”

Cantino noted that she, Roxanne Groff, and Christine Hughes, all ACFAN steering committee members, formed and led a working group in 2018 to participate in the Wayne planning process for a new Forest Plan. Their Working Group on Ecological Forest Management, Climate Protection, and Sustainable Economies submitted a 117-page report in January 2019, providing the Wayne with hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles and other documentation on the importance of ecological forest management to protect climate, rare old forest diversity, air, water, and local economies. “Not one of these citations is referenced, let alone assessed, in the Wayne’s Draft Assessment for their new Plan,” stated Roxanne Groff, chair of the working group. “We certainly hope that this will be remedied, given that the Court has so strongly echoed our outrage and disgust at the Wayne’s shoddy process.”

ACFAN urges people to speak up by the Monday, March 23 deadline to comment on the Draft Assessment (contact info at acfan.org). “We encourage people to tell the Wayne yet again that fracking, logging, and burning destroy precious old forest diversity and ability to protect climate and also pollute air and water. These practices must be evaluated in thorough, up-to-date science with public scrutiny–the ‘hard look’ required by NEPA–as we have been telling them ad nauseum,” Groff noted, adding, “We trust that they will now finally listen.” The Working Group’s report and others are available in the Wayne Planning Reading Room (https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=53485 – Media: please make sure this works. Word doc urls are sometimes promlematic.) Wayne planning process information at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wayne/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd695580.

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