Last month, three scoping meetings were held to address the potential mineral development within the three units (Athens, Ironton and Marietta) of the Wayne National Forest (“WNF”). Similar to 2011, these meetings will help determine whether “federally owned” mineral development will be allowed in the WNF.
The second of the three meetings was held in Athens, Ohio, at the Athens Community Center. Hundreds of people attended the meeting, which included a heavy police presence. The atmosphere of the meeting was tense, with at least 90 percent of the people being against mineral development within the WNF. The conference room that held the meeting was relatively small and essentially divided up with one side of the room consisting of three stations where attendees could ask questions and a couple of tables where the attendees could fill out comment cards. The other side of the room displayed maps of the WNF with areas of potential mineral development. There were only a handful of representatives from the WNF and Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) available to answer questions.
Dean Gettinger, a representative of the BLM, and Tony Scardina, the Supervisor of the WNF, briefly spoke about 30 minutes into the two-hour scheduled meeting. It was made clear that any questions would be answered following their statements and in a one-on-one format, not as a group. The majority of the crowd then erupted into chants and what appeared to be a choreographed demonstration. The demonstration included a rehearsed speech between two of the anti-fracking residents, signs which read “no consent” and chants of “we said no.” Additionally, the residents threw a large amount of paper airplanes at the representatives from the WNF and BLM and one resident dumped an entire box worth of anti-fracking petitions at the feet of Dean Gettinger and Tony Scardina. There was a short-lived chant made by the handful of pro-fracking residents, but they were quickly confronted by the anti-fracking residents. Soon thereafter and less than an hour into the gathering, the police, BLM and WNF shut down the meeting.
The last of the three meetings was held in Pedro, Ohio, at the Collins Center Bowman Auditorium (about 90 minutes southwest of Athens, Ohio). The setup of the meeting was the same and included a police presence, albeit a much smaller one than in Athens, Ohio. The atmosphere was the complete opposite from the meeting the night before, with very few people in attendance and a much more congenial environment between the anti-fracking and pro-fracking residents.The BLM and WNF did not give any kind of timetable on when they will decide if leasing federally owned minerals will be allowed within the WNF; however, if the scene made in Athens, Ohio, is any indication and the anti-fracking residents have their way, it appears that this go-around at allowing federally owned mineral development within the WNF could be rejected just as it was back in 2011. Stay tuned.