Conservation groups sued the federal government Tuesday, challenging its plan to allow hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, in the Wayne National Forest.
Since December, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has held two auctions for companies to bid on leases to explore fracking opportunities in Ohio's only national forest. In all, bidders paid $6.9 million for the right to explore their slice of more than 1,840 acres.
The agency plans to auction off up to 40,000 acres of the roughly 240,000 acres owned by the federal government. The next auction will be held in June.
The lawsuit – filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus by the Center for Biological Diversity, Heartwood, Ohio Environmental Council and Sierra Club – says the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to analyze threats to public health, endangered species and the climate.
The plaintiffs charge these are violations of the National Environmental Policy Act. A government spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment.
“The Wayne is a public forest owned by every Ohioan and every American," Nathan Johnson, a lawyer and public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council wrote in a news release. "We want our children and grandchildren to know a Wayne that’s full of towering trees and thriving wildlife, not one that’s scarred by frack pads and pipelines."