- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

MARIETTA, Ohio (AP) - Oil-and-gas drilling companies from five states have paid more than $1.7 million for the right to explore parts of Ohio’s only national forest with future hydraulic fracturing in mind.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that the federal agency leased 759 acres of land in Wayne National Forest to fossil fuel development companies in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Environmental groups protested the federal government’s auctioning of mineral rights in the southeast Ohio forest. The Bureau of Land Management received 100 “valid” complaints during its 30-day comment period, all of which were denied on Monday.

Opponents contend that fracking threatens public health and local wildlife by polluting the air and water.

Lessees are still required to obtain a permit before any drilling could begin.

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