Ohio National Forest Says OK To Natural Gas Drilling

Ohio National Forest Says OK To Natural Gas Drilling

The U.S. Forest Service recently gave permission for hydraulic fracturing, a technique for drilling natural gas also known as fracking, to take place in a national forest located in southeast Ohio. Fracking involves a horizontal drilling technique used for natural gas in which chemical-laced water is blasted deep underground in order to break up the shale and release the natural gases located within the rock.

A study of the Wayne National Forest’s land and resource management plan, drafted in 2006, was studied by the Forest Service along with a review of shale drilling technology after objections from local government officials and environmental groups expressed concern over proposed leasing of more than 3,000 acres of mineral rights for oil and natural gas drilling. The study delayed a scheduled federal auction of leases for the mineral rights in December of 2011.
Anne Carey, the forest’s supervisor, said in a statement that she determined the plan could adequately address any damage and risks to the forest from the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. She also said there is no need for a new environmental impact study.

Forest Service officials used a team of natural resource experts to analyze the above-ground effects of fracking in the forest, where there are approximately 1,300 shallow oil and gas wells. The report goes on to state that 13 high-volume horizontal drilling well sites could potentially be developed in the forest through 2016. Deep well horizontal drilling was determined to be economically feasible by the Bureau of Land Management, who currently controls the mineral rights to the land.

Not everyone is in support of the plan. The environmental coalition Buckeye Forest Council feel that the 2006 plan is outdated, as there was no mention of hydraulic fracturing. Also opposing the leasing were Athens County, the City of Athens and Ohio University, who are concerned that the drilling could lead to groundwater contamination.

Nathan Johnson, a staff attorney with the Buckeye Forest Council, stated that the group is extremely disappointed with the Forest Service’s finding and thinks it’s “a bad decision.” He said that they are not ruling out possible legal action to persuade the Forest Service to conduct a formal environmental impact study. “The analysis in the 2006 plan doesn’t consider the potential impact of shale fracking on the environment,” Johnson said.

Energy executives have stated that the fracking technique has been used for decades without problems. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said that further development of the gas would create more jobs in the area. The final decision will be up to The Bureau of Land Management whether to consider and/or allocate any oil and gas leasing rights proposals within the forest.

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