Fracking on Public Lands Not Popular with Local Residents

by Duane Nichols on December 18, 2016

Protesting at Wayne National Forest in Ohio

Some 700+ Acres of Ohio‘s Only National Forest Leased for Fracking

From an Article by Lorraine Chow,, December 15, 2016

Despite heavy opposition from public health and environmental groups, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has leased 759 acres of Ohio’s only national forest for fracking.

According to the Associated Press, oil and gas companies from Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma forked over $1.7 million for the right to explore parts of Wayne National Forest for drilling operations. Lessees still need to obtain a permit before any drilling can start.

The online auction took place on Dec. 13 with the minimum acceptable bid for as little as $2 per acre. The Columbus Dispatch reported that offers made by the 22 registered bidders ranged from the $2 minimum to a high of $5,806.12 per acre.

Opponents of the federal auction, cited concerns over public health impacts and effects on air and water quality, and submitted more than 17,000 comments to the BLM during its 30-day comment period.

“Public lands are for the people, not for the benefit of Big Oil and Gas,” Lena Moffitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, said in a statement last month. “Drilling for oil and gas means more fracking, and fracking means poisoning our air and water, and threatening the health of our communities and our environment. At a time when clean energy like solar and wind is proving to be safest, healthiest and most cost-effective way to power our country, it’s high time we recognized that we need to leave dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas in the ground.”

The BLM reportedly received 100 “valid” complaints but they were all denied by the agency on Monday and the auction moved forward.

Nathan Johnson, an Ohio Environmental Council attorney who helped file a protest on behalf of conservation groups, told the Dispatch that the BLM failed to address new information about the size of well pads and pipelines that come with large-scale fracking projects. “Once they’ve made the decision to lease, that’s the ballgame for them,” he said.

The protest letter also states that the BLM did not adequately address the potential impacts from the oil and gas leasing on threatened or endangered species, including the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, fanshell, pink mucket pearly mussel, sheepnose mussel and snuffbox mussel.

“The government’s plan is remarkably shortsighted in its failure to consider the full extent of fracking and wastewater disposal that could occur throughout the forest,” Wendy Park, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Water quality and wildlife will suffer regardless of where these activities occur.”

Just this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its widely anticipated final report on fracking confirming that the controversial drilling process does impact drinking water. The report is a stunning reversal of its misleading draft assessment that stated fracking has not led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

In addition to allowing fracking on public lands, Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 554 last week, which will freeze renewable energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 clean energy jobs are at risk.

A two-year freeze was enacted when Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its renewable energy mandates. 

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 U. S. Forest Service says no drilling on 40,000 acres in the Wyoming Range

By Christine Peterson, Casper Star Tribune, December 16, 2016

Oil and gas drilling will not be allowed in almost 40,000 acres of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday, ending more than a decade of limbo for conservation groups and energy companies.

The Forest Service said the outcome was based on more than 62,000 comments on four possible options.

“What really came through was sense of place and what the Wyoming Range embodied in terms of the landscape and how people derive their economic welfare from it,” said Mary Cernicek, spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton forest, citing varying uses in the area from ranching to outfitting, hunting and tourism.

The 30 leases were a holdover from when Congress passed the Wyoming Range Legacy Act in 2009, which protected 1.2 million acres from development. Stretching across the eastern side of the Wyoming Range, the oil and gas leases were never allowed to be developed, nor were they conserved as part of the broader tract of land.

Outdoor groups like the National Outdoor Leadership School, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited worked for years to remove the acres from leasing. They hailed the final decision as a victory for outdoor recreation and the environment.

“After 10 years of standing up for the Wyoming Range and after two incredible success stories, this is the happy ending we’d hoped for,” said Mike Burd, spokesman for Citizens for the Wyoming Range and Green River trona miner. “Responsible energy development means some places, like the Wyoming Range, should be managed for wildlife, hunting, fishing and recreation, not oil and gas.”

The decision was disappointing, however, for oil companies who planned to drill in the leases.

Peter Wold is president of Wold Oil Properties — one of six companies with leases in the area — and has been waiting since 2006 for the opportunity to develop them. He said his company could have drilled underground from existing leases resulting in no surface occupancy.

“The whole thing has been a frustrating experience,” Wold said. “They took our money and have not issued the leases. It’s hard for me to understand particularly because we’ve said we would have no surface impact on forest lands.”

Wold’s leases were on the very edge of the area that could have been drilled, said Aaron Bannon, environmental stewardship and sustainability director for the National Outdoor Leadership School. Some of the other leases were in the heart of the forest in the middle of where NOLS runs two-week outdoor courses for 14- and 15-year-olds.

“There was a decent potential if the decision wasn’t what it is, we could see some pretty significant oil and gas development right on our operating area,” he said.

Trout Unlimited, which fought against the leases citing areas of native cutthroat trout habitat, applauded the Forest Service’s decision.

“There is a time and a place in Wyoming for oil and gas development, but the Wyoming Range isn’t one of those places,” said Tasha Sorensen, Wyoming field representative for Trout Unlimited. “Maintaining access to intact natural landscapes in Wyoming is essential to maintaining our sporting heritage and outdoor recreation businesses.”

The decision by the Forest Service is final and will be signed by USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie in 30 days.

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