Ohio environmentalists and conservationists won a small victory against the fracking industry June 6 when Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) decided to halt all water sales from Ohio's largest contained watershed to drillers in the oil and gas industry.
The Muskingum River Watershed covers more than 8,000 square miles, mostly in northeastern Ohio, and overlaps much of the area being targeted by oil and gas companies for drilling due to the shale formations below ground. It is the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio, covering approximately 20 percent of the state.
Environmental groups have expressed concern that the watershed's water supply could be sold for use in fracking, a fairly new drilling technique in which thousands of gallons of chemical-laden water are shot into the earth in order to fracture shale and free natural oil and gas. Critics of the process say more research is needed on the technique to fully understand fracking's long- and short-term environmental and economic effects. CityBeat reported on June 6 that continued concerns about fracking’s sustainability and safety have gone unrecognized during the state’s rush to cash in on the industry.
The decision to postpone the sales will be held until data is received in a water-availability study that's currently underway. Pending analysis of the study's results, MWCD plans to update its water supply policy to help deal with interested clients in the future.
“We believe strongly that it is in the best interest of the
public we serve and the conservancy district to not entertain any water supply
requests until this study has been completed and the MWCD has had an
opportunity to update its water supply policy for review, public discussion and
consideration of the MWCD Board of Directors,” said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD
executive director/secretary in a press release.
The MWCD will honor its preexisting agreement to provide Gulfport Energy Co. with 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County.