COLUMBUS, Ohio — The wait will be a little longer to find out if oil and gas exploration will be allowed in a few Ohio state parks and wildlife areas. The Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission put off a decision on the controversial issue on Monday.
The meeting at Ohio Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Columbus ended when the chair said members did not have consensus and weren't ready to vote today. So, they pushed the vote off to a later date, which has not yet been announced.
The meeting room was packed, mostly with those against fracking. They made their feelings known by holding signs reading "Shame, Shame, Shame," "Deny all nominations" and "It's not nice to frack Mother Nature."
They also made their voices heard by interjecting during the commissioners' discussions and with song during a short executive session. The chorus of the song included the lyrics "Stand up. Hands off. Leave our parks alone."
Commissioners ultimately approved putting mineral rights to four Ohio Department of Transportation properties out to bid to oil and gas companies.
"Our campaign was to get denials on all the nominations, ODOT, the parks, the wildlife areas, so I'm not satisfied with that," Roxanne Groff with Save Ohio Parks said.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association likes the move.
"I thought the ODOT property moving forward is a step in the right direction," Mike Chadsey with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association said.
But the commission put off a decision on whether to lease mineral rights at Wolf Run State Park, Salt Fork State Park, Zepernick Wildlife Area and Valley Run Wildlife Area, all in eastern Ohio.
"It seemed that there were some concerns that we just needed some additional time as a commission to discuss before we had a consensus," Commission Chair Ryan Richardson said.
Gov. Mike DeWine has said there will be no drilling on the surface of any state park lands. It would be done on nearby private property.
"That's not a surprise and that's also not a problem," Chadsey said. "You know these well pads can be built a mile or two away and the horizontal, lateral will be underground not impacting anybody enjoying the surface."
Still, environmentalists worry about the impacts the underground fracking could have closer to ground level.
"If the two lakes from Salt Fork State Park and Wolf Run State Park are contaminated, that shuts down two big public water systems," Groff said.
10TV will continue to follow this developing story when the next Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission meeting is held.