Ohio $tate Park$ go ‘green’

Going camping in Ohio State Parks? With marcellus oil drilling rigs around, you won't need a lantern at night.

This is testimony against proposed legislation to facilitate hydraulic fracturing in Ohio’s state parks, forests and other public land. I plan to present it tonight before the Ohio House Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. This legislation is on a fast track and could even be voted on this week. I urge you to contact committee members now. I’ve attached a PDF with their contact info.

I grew up in inner city Cleveland in the late ’50s and early ’60s. We lived on West 40th Street, literally a stones-throw from Cleveland Electro Metals. At night, we could look out the kitchen window and see workers silhouetted in the orange glow of the huge furnace where they melted down sheet metal from old airplanes and buses.

It was a smelly, noisy and unhealthy place to grow up. But my father worked hard to make a better life for us. He made it a point to take two weeks off every summer and take us to East Harbor State Park.

I lived for those two weeks. I looked forward to camping, hiking through the woods and exploring the marshes and the lakeshore. The fresh air — the smell of grasses, flowers and trees — was delightfully foreign to me. Sound was a unique experience too. There was no constant rumble of machinery or jarring clang of metal dropping from overhead cranes. There was silence, with interludes of birds singing and frogs croaking. You could even hear insects buzzing.

I lived most of my adult life in the city, but I never lost that connection with nature. Even during difficult times in my life, I often returned to find solace at East Harbor State Park and later Mohican State Memorial Forest.

Fourteen years ago, I got the opportunity to move to the Mohican area. I jumped at it. I feel so lucky to live in a place that’s special not just to those who live there but to hundreds of thousands of other Ohioans who come here for recreation and to spend quality time with their families.

I’m nearly 60 years old. I’ve resigned myself to living out the rest of my life in the Mohican area, enjoying the parks, forests and rivers. In my worst nightmare, I never thought I’d find myself desperately struggling to save it from being industrialized virtually overnight.

Make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what this proposed legislation would do. Once that Pandora’s box is opened, there will be no closing it. Once the heavy equipment rolls in, the ground is opened up and toxic chemicals injected, it will never be the same. Some of it will start looking all-too-familiar — like the smelly, noisy, dangerous inner city world I grew up in.

Our state parks and forests would become fragmented, industrialized and lost forever to future generations.

Please don’t let that become your legacy.

I’m urging you to vote against this measure.  CommitteelistHouseandSenate

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Scam letter alert

Here, in the form of two PDFs (because I couldn’t figure out how to make it one) is a “testimonial” a representative of Quebec Energy, a Dubai-based gas drilling company, gave a prospective lessor in Richland County over the weekend.

It’s indicative of the hard-sell tactics being employed by drillers.

Pay close attention to the last paragraph.

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scamletter2

A (Groucho) Marxist Manifesto

Join GMAS or the mourning dove gets it.

This is a column I wrote for the Greater Mohican Audubon Society newsletter. I’m putting it on my blog as an invitation to those who live in and/or love this area to join.

GMAS wants you

I’m a Marxist. A Groucho Marxist.

I’ve always lived by the Groucho creed: I’d never join a club that would have me as a member.

But, in the case of the Greater Mohican Audubon Society, I’ve made an exception. Mainly because this is one club where your politics, religion, lifestyle and income level – or lack thereof – don’t matter. We’re an informal bunch bound by two things, our love for nature and our love for the Mohican area.

That’s what brought me to Mohican country in the first place, moving here after decades of wandering aimlessly in an urban environment. A few years after I migrated here from Columbus, some folks from the area started a local Audubon chapter. I was delighted.

Being an accomplished procrastinator, it took me several more years to join. I was lured by the prospect of editing the newsletter. (I mentioned in a previous column that my decision might have been jogged by a few Margaritas consumed at a Mexican restaurant that day, but “Audubon at Home” columnist Jan Kennedy disputes that account.)

Regardless, I volunteered to fill a void created when former newsletter editor Su Snyder stepped down after six years of dedicated service.

That’s normal for clubs like this. People have other commitments or they move on with their lives and no longer have time to participate. Which is what I’m getting at here. Like any other club, GMAS needs new blood. Not just new members, but a few more people to play more active roles.

Please invite people you know who are interested in the area and its natural splendor to join GMAS. And, if you’re already a member, please consider playing a more active role in whatever capacity you can.

To learn more, just come to a board meeting. They’re usually scheduled in conjunction with bird walks or other fun stuff – including lunch. Sorry, no Margaritas.

Meeting dates are posted on the calendar, which is also available online at http://www.gmasohio.org/

GASPLAND – Post-industrial tourism in Mohican Country

News item: The Ohio Legislature is considering a bill to facilitate oil and gas drilling on state lands.

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Coming soon - our version of beachfront property

Nothing new here. This has been a perennial issue in Ohio and other states. Legislators, whose campaigns are bankrolled by oil and gas interests, love to trot this out when the stars align favorably. In other words, when the economy is tanking and energy prices are surging.

This is kind of like those remote backwater countries you read about where people become so destitute they have to sell their own children to survive. Except, in this case, the legislators want to sell your children.

Until now, cooler heads have prevailed when this issue has come up. Legislators beholden to gas and oil interests haven’t had the votes to push it through. After all, it’s kind of a tough sell when there are still a few conscientious legislators in the room whose idea of a day at the beach doesn’t involve frolicking along the shores of a festering gas well wastewater pit.

What’s different this time around is the ominous threat of bringing wholesale hydraulic fracturing to Ohio’s state forests and parks. In spite of what industry shills — including politicians and their bureaucrats on the county level — are telling us, this is dirty, noisy and dangerous business. Besides, it’s not nearly as lucrative for lessors as they would have you believe.

You’ll see the same high-pressure sales tactics used time after time. Industry representatives and their front men — including state and county bureaucrats and starry eyed landowners bent on making a quick buck — come in and repeat the mantra: “Gas drillers have been doing this for 60 years and there has not been one incident of water well contamination.”

Well, that’s a lie. Just ask our neighbors in Pennsylvania. They have plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise, much of it too well-documented to dismiss as anecdotal or coincidental.

The truth is, this is not your daddy’s hydraulic fracturing. Today’s version is recently developed technology using higher pressure, horizontal boring covering great distances, consuming millions of gallons of water and spewing tons of hazardous substances into the air, land and water.

So far, Ohio media seem to have turned a blind eye to this. Few I’ve seen have questioned the drilling proponents’ “safe-as-milk” spiel. But then, Pennsylvania is a world away. And, in our neck of the woods, word travels slowly.

Here in Mohican Country, we’re getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our canoe livery industry. Like every other summer, people will flock here to enjoy the river, the scenery and our 5,000-acre Mohican Memorial State Forest.

If the gas and oil industry — and the politicians they own — get their way, we’ll have a lot more to offer vacationers in the future. Our forest, parks and countryside will be dotted with toxic wastewater lagoons, drilling pads covering 5-10 acres and turbines the size of Winnebagos. (The turbines are used for pressurizing gas lines.) Our roads will be choked with convoys of tractor-trailers servicing well-drilling and waste-removal operations. With all that noise and commotion going on 24/7, city dwellers visiting Mohican Country will feel right at home. And, because it takes millions of gallons of water to open up each well, the rivers and lakes around here will be so shallow that tourists won’t have to worry about their kids drowning. Not even if they stand on their heads.

Our counties and townships will be more than glad to underwrite the cost for wear and tear on the roads to accommodate the new “industriotourism.” And our local emergency service providers will be prepared to handle new challenges. (The gas and oil companies will try to buy their silence by donating a few thousand bucks here and there for a new ambulance or HazMat gear.)

Of course, we’ll need a catchy slogan consistent with our new image. How about: Mohican Country — Frack to Nature!