Auction for Mineral Leases in Wayne National Forest Upsets Local Ohio Governments

by Nicole Good on October 8, 2011

Drilling on state-owned land has been a topic of discussion recently, and now the federal government is cashing in on its piece of the shale gas play as well.  Oil and gas rights for more than 3,000 acres of the Wayne National Forest in Ohio will be placed on the auction block on December 7th.  Environmental groups are not the only groups protesting the lease– the nearby city of Athens and Athens County Commission have written a request that four of the parcels be removed from the auction.  Their letters express concerns about negative impacts to the tourism industry and that the leases do not protect the Hocking River and aquifer, which is downstream from the parcels and supplies 95% of the drinking water for several counties.

The forest sits over the Utica Shale formation, recently attracting a lot of attention in Ohio where it is estimated to contain 5.5 billion barrels of oil in addition to 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Read more here…

According to the University of Colorado Law School, the federal government owns most of the land suitable for oil and gas development in the United States (mostly in the West).  The process for developing these resources, such as the Wayne National Forest, involves the Forest Service identifying areas of national forest suitable for leasing, and then the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing the leasing process and development activities.  This system of leasing federal land was written in the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, with several amendments being made since.  Recent amendments have been made in an attempt to reverse the trend of an exponentially growing number of protests– from only 1% of parcels protested in 1998, to 49% protested in 2009, which resulted in half of them being withdrawn from leasing.

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