Buckeye Forest Council fundraises for anti-fracking efforts
CORRECTION: The original version of the story incorrectly stated that 40 people attended the fundraiser.
By Sarah Volpenhein, CG News
About 70 people gathered at the Purple Chopstix Restaurant at 371 Richland Ave. on Sunday for a fundraiser for the Buckeye Forest Council, a grassroots organization that raised $11,000 of its $25,000 goal for Athens County.
“What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” said Benjamin Bushwick, a volunteer at the event, where the BFC served food and drink donated by the Purple Chopstix, Salaam, the Village Bakery and Jackie O’s and asked for donations to help sustain its current initiatives.
Austin Babrow, a member of BFC who attended the fundraiser, said the BFC is “the strongest and most active advocate” for protecting national and state forests, such as Wayne National Forest, which sits on the aquifer that provides the water for about 70,000 people in Athens County.
Wayne is one of BFC’s current focuses because the organization suspects that Wayne will lease its land to the oil and gas industry for fracking in spring of 2013.
Last year, BFC orchestrated a letter campaign that generated thousands of letters from the Athens community, ultimately persuading Wayne forest supervisor Anne Carey to postpone leasing Wayne National Forest lands for fracking, said Babrow.
After postponing the leasing, Wayne conducted an informal review of the information relating to shale development, said Nathan Johnson, the staff attorney for the BFC, who spoke at the fundraiser.
“They came to the conclusion that they are under no obligation to study fracking because they claim that it’s essentially the same as conventional oil and gas drilling, which is a very disingenuous position to take. I think anyone who knows very much about fracking knows that it’s a completely new animal compared to what we’ve been doing for a long time,” said Johnson.
With the expectation that Wayne will put the same parcels of land up for lease again in the spring of 2013, the BFC believes litigation will be necessary to prevent fracking on Wayne National Forest. Johnson wants to prosecute Wayne for failing to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in its review of the environmental impacts of fracking.
“They really need to go back and conduct a formal analysis, formally involve the public to get public input and take a really close look at some of these impacts [of fracking],” he said.
“We are trying to prevent the contamination of the drinking water for 70,000 citizens,” said Theresa Mills, BFC fracking coordinator and longtime environmental activist in Ohio, who urged attendees to donate as much as they could to BFC.
Christine Hughes, owner of the Village Bakery, Della Zona and Catalyst Café, also spoke at the event. She satirized the oil and gas industry by pretending to lobby congressmen for fewer restrictions on the restaurant industry in comparison to how she believes the oil and gas industry is affecting the public.
“The cost of using only pure ingredients is really much too high and keeps us from hiring more people to grow this economy. If we could use some of the cheaper substances, like sawdust instead of flour, our expert formulation specialists can produce a much greater quantity of bread for the people to buy. And of course, we could not reveal what our ingredients are as our competitors could benefit from our innovations. We need an exemption from the Safe Bread Act and freedom from the Ingredient List requirements,” she said. “And if my restaurant needs more sawdust or dirt or tree bark to supply enough cheap ingredients for food production, citizens should have no right to unreasonably withhold these things from us if it is convenient for us to take them. We need eminent domain, and we need freedom from other people’s property rights.”
Among the attendees of the fundraiser were also members of Appalachia Resist!, such as anti-fracking activist Madeline ffitch, who recently accepted a reduced misdemeanor charge for protesting the Ginsburg injection well by locking her arms between two concrete barrels blocking the entrance to the well in June.