FRACKING TERRITORY? Lawsuit objects to gas drilling.

  • FRACKING TERRITORY? Lawsuit objects to gas drilling.

The Ozark Society has sued to stop gas drillling in the Ozark National Forest until an adequate environmental impact statement has been completed.

Federal agencies haven’t adequately considered impact on endangered species, roadless areas and wild and scenic rivers, the suit says. It says they particularly have failed to consider the fallout from hydraulic fracturing wells.

The suit asks for a preliminary injunction against further exploration until the suit can be tried.

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The suit was filed because of fear that gas companies are on the verge of an explosion of hydraulic fracturing to produce gas in the northern reaches of the national forest.

A 2005 plan, which came with an environmental impact statement, said the Forest Service anticipated 10 to 15 wells in the forest. However, more than 40 have been drilled, said Ross Noland, attorney for the Ozark Society. But these are conventional gas wells, drilled south of the Arkansas River outside the Fayetteville shale zone. In fracking, water and chemicals are injected at high pressure to release gas from shale zones, a process that produces waste byproducts with a potential for pollution.

The immediate concern is work on exploratory drilling that could lead to massive fracking to the north. A 2008 Bureau of Land Management report said the forest could “support” 1,700 wells. A 2010 supplemental information report by federal agencies cleared the way for sale of leases and exploratory drilling in the northern parts of the forest in the shale zone. Noland said the Ozark Society will contend this supplemental statement didn’t constitute a full environmental impact statement, as federal law requires. Public comment wasn’t solicited or taken, for example.

Here’s the full complaint and also a supporting brief. The case was assigned to Judge Billy Roy Wilson. A news release follows: