|Signs opposed to proposed drilling leases surrounded the Heflin Rec Center|
According to Katie Ottenweller with the Southern Environmental Law Center, the group which formally petitioned the Bureau of Land Management on April 16 to prevent drilling leases, the SELC planned for the Monday meeting to be held just two days before the deadline for protests. “The window of protesting was so short,” Ottenweller said as she explained the scramble to organize a protest in less than two months. Janice Barrett with Wild South, a non-profit organization focused on protecting national forests in the South, described similar and successful protests in the past to protect the Bankhead National Forest from having historic Native American sites destroyed by timber leasing.
|Informational material provided by local|
conservation groups was available
for free to the public
Once the meeting began, the investigative documentary “Fracking Hell: The Untold Story” was screened for the audience and depicted a number of detrimental impacts in small Pennsylvania communities caused by natural gas drilling. The crowd sat in silence while the film showed popular clips of flammable drinking water caused by chemicals used in fracking which have seeped into water supplies. Other downsides to fracking shown in the film included increased truck traffic in quiet towns and visible scars on the once lush landscape.
|Attendees of the Monday public meeting screened the|
documentary "Fracking Hell: The Untold Story"
Also in attendance was Senator Gerald Dial who expressed by phone on Tuesday a desire to protect the “great natural resource” in his home district. Dial has been a lifelong resident of Clay County and understands the importance of the Talladega National Forest to people in the area. The senator and his colleagues plan to introduce a resolution to the Alabama Legislature on Wednesday which will publicly oppose any leasing of the federally-owned land. If approved, the resolution will be forwarded to Governor Robert Bentley for his signature. When asked about the economic impact of potential drilling, Senator Dial admitted it would provide a boost in employment and other factors but said “we don’t need jobs that deteriorate our lands.”