UPDATE 11/19/15 3:03 PM
ATHENS, Ohio (AP) - The federal government is hearing diverse opinions as it again considers whether to open Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio to oil-and-gas drilling.
Attendees of a series of U.S. Bureau of Land Management hearings being held this week say both opponents and supporters have been out in force.
The bureau is proposing allowing drilling beneath about 31,900 acres of the forest through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is determining who owns mineral rights, assessing potential environmental risks and gathering public input.
An activist coalition including the Buckeye Forest Council, Sierra Club and other fracking opponents has called for a "full-scale environmental report" before proceeding. Environmental concerns led the bureau to drop an earlier drilling proposal in 2011.
Many landowners and companies favorable to fracking also have spoken out.
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Felicia Mettler is a life-long resident of the Torch area of Athens County.
She claims it wasn't until recently when she learned what was going on at a drilling operation, located near where she and others took part in an anti-fracking protest.
"Just for them to say it's safe and it's OK, and we're supposed to be OK with that," she said. "We're supposed to go on that word that it's OK. We would like to see monitors put around these."
The demonstrations also were aimed at planned operations in nearby Meigs County: one, a port for the transportation of fracking waste from area drilling sites.
"They're going to bring this toxic waste in on barges, as much as 80-90% from out of state," said Bob Berardi, Meigs County Resident. "Our laws in Ohio are so much (more lax), that it makes it more economical to dispose of it here."
While he's referring mainly to the drilling process itself, an industry spokesman says oil and gas extraction is heavily regulated by the Buckeye State.
"They have some very strong, but common-sense regulations in place to make sure everything is protected, and human safety is looked after," said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association
The demonstration drew about four dozen protesters.