On April 18, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) will sign a lease allowing fracking wells around Piedmont Lake for an indefinite time into the future.
The text published on March 21 reflects no plan or environmental assessment, no limit on the number of well pads, no hint of their possible locations on and off MWCD property, no indication where pipelines and access roads will be.
Any given well just requires a 30-day notice to the MWCD prior to construction, and since consent "may not be unreasonably withheld, conditioned or delayed," this allows only days for a rubber stamp review of the complexities of the wells and tanks, forest clearing, pipelines, access roads, etc.
Tearing up land for pipelines from wells sited off MWCD's own property will be negotiated separately from this lease -- by MWCD , not by affected landowners -- so those future decisions and effects are totally unknown.
The lease provides for both "unitizing" and mandatory pooling so as to include property not owned by MWCD. Under Ohio's unitization rules, unleased landowners can be forced into participation without even being notified.
Readers can Google: ORC 6101.15 to see the unlimited and uncontestable powers the MWCD Board has to usurp "public or private property located in or out of the district" to "accomplish [its] purposes."
MWCD pretends it will control light and noise pollution and flaring. The lease conditions are laughable. Drilling and operations noise is 24/7 and light pollution occurs every night. There are zero standards prescribed in the lease for these nuisances, only the timid hope that the drillers will use "best efforts to reduce [all three] as much as reasonably practical." Antero Resources will have to hire a consultant to conduct a study and propose anti-nuisance measures, but only has to "implement the recommendations of such consultant where operationally feasible" and can otherwise ignore them.
MWCD claims Antero will be held responsible for any damages, but last year's case of toxic dumping on a farm by Harch Environmental proves otherwise. Harch played chameleon and overnight became CMS Oil Field Services. The ODNR legal department had to admit the successor clauses in the compliance agreement signed by Harch were unenforceable; the "loophole" was gaping.
This should be a lesson to everybody who has signed a lease believing there are protections, but more so to MWCD, which is mortgaging the lake and its surroundings.
This lease would set in motion decades of playing it by ear with the fracker tail wagging the public interest dog. Is this the only answer we have to financing our environmental treasures in the 21st century.