Citizens protest water district water sales and leasing for fracking – Advocacy groups speak out on lack of public accountability.

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Fracking, Water Contamination
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Article courtesy of Alison Auciello | October 19, 2012 | Ohio Citizen Action | Shared as educational material only

New Philadelphia, Ohio – Today, Food & Water Watch and members of the citizen’s advocacy coalition Freshwater Accountability Project convened a protest and a press conference at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse, demanding that the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) protect the health, safety and welfare of watershed district residents by halting all water sales and the leasing of public land for hydraulic fracturing.

Alison Auciello, coalition member and organizer for Food & Water Watch said, “all water sales and leases for fracking should be subject to public comment, and the MWCD should put in place a requirement to address the comments they receive publicly and act accordingly. This is an issue of public trust.”

Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an unconventional natural gas drilling method that involves injecting under high pressure millions of gallons of water, silica sand and as many as 650 chemicals—some known carcinogens—underground to release natural gas and other hydrocarbons from hard rock formations.

Amid public opposition, the MWCD announced on June 7 a temporary halt to water sales for fracking pending completion of a U.S. Geological Survey study and an update to their water policy that would include public comment on leasing and water sales from the district.

Despite their temporary moratorium, on September 21, the MWCD board of directors authorized new water sales. According to the Freshwater Accountability Project, the MWCD could also implement a method of public comment that would only include water sales and leases of public land to the oil and gas industry deemed “major” by the MWCD staff.

Property owners within the Muskingum Watershed pay an added assessment on their property taxes each year to fund the MWCD, whose stated mission is abatement of flooding and conservation of the district’s resources for beneficial public uses.

Although that does include industrial uses of the water, residents argue that the massive withdrawal and permanent contamination of water used in fracking, and the drilling process itself poses an unacceptable risk to the reservoirs that does not benefit the public.

Lea Harper of the Freshwater Accountability Project said, “MWCD has crossed the line from being a conservancy, to providing services to the oil and gas industry. We don’t know what they are doing until they’ve already done it, and that is a violation of my rights as someone who pays an assessment to fund the district. I should have the same access to, and influence with the MWCD that the oil and gas industry enjoys. This land and water belongs to the public, not the MWCD.”

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control.


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