On March 21, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) released the partial text (Exhibit A) of the lease for gas and oil fracking at and around Piedmont Lake that it intends to sign on April 18.
This lease has no end date (forever, as long as production continues) and reflects no plan or environmental assessment.
Nothing limits the number of well pads, hints at their possible locations on and off MWCD property or says where pipelines and access roads will be. The only well pad restriction is a 600 ft. distance from the shoreline or certain buildings.
No impact study is required for any given well, just 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. With pooling, a landowner is just entitled to a certified letter of notification.
Readers should 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 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 throw the results into the wastebasket.
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?
Letter to the Editor