Activists Slow Roll Federal and State Projects In Ohio

The process for building new energy-related infrastructure projects can take years because of the extensive environmental reviews and public comment periods that are required before any permits can be issued. That’s true for oil and gas, renewable projects, pipelines and transmission lines.

Whether it’s through litigation after exhaustive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews have been conducted or bureaucratic red tape, coordinated efforts to delay the construction of critical projects has led to significant delays and in some cases cancellations at both the federal and state levels.

Ohio provides a prime case study of this.

Endless Delays

Landowners in Ohio who own mineral rights adjacent to or on federal and state lands have been waiting for over a decade to be able to develop their mineral rights.

Recall that in 2011, Ohio’s General Assembly approved fracking under state lands, but development failed to take place. Then in 2017, former Gov. John Kasich passed a bill to establish the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission, an entity created to govern the process of shale gas development under state lands. However, that commission sat empty for years with no appointments made. Even after additional language was added to incentivize the commission, the rules were never promulgated, resulting in a de facto moratorium, and as a result, adjacent private landowners’ rights were held hostage.

Ohio’s Statehouse recently passed, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed, H.B. 507, allowing for the safe development of oil and natural gas under the surface of state-owned lands after years of obstruction. H.B 507 finally allows for the safe and responsible drilling on state lands by bypassing the Commission and telling state agencies they “shall” sign leases to allow drilling under state-owned land until the Commission adopts formal rules for leasing.

But in a par for the course move by environmental activists, those groups are now trying to slow down this process yet again by proposing more bureaucratic red tape for the Commission that would give activists more opportunities to stonewall projects. From the Ohio Capitol Journal:

“He and many others pressed the commission for explicit public notice provisions. They want the commission to post parcels up for lease on their website with links to a map and 60-120 days for public comment. The commission should also lay out the factors they’ll consider in their decision. Additionally, they told commissioners to set up an email notification system to alert subscribers of new parcels.”

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If history is anything to go by, just look at the Wayne National Forest where an updated forest plan underwent extensive environmental review and public comment in 2017, nearly five years later, rules have yet to be published to allow for development to occur and no lease sales have taken place since May 2018. At a Congressional hearing on the “weaponization” of NEPA in 2018, former CEQ Associate Director of NEPA Oversight Horst Greczmiel testified that it is fear of litigation driving [federal] agencies to “excessive documents,” saying he’d be asking:

“Why is it since the close of the [Wayne National Forest APD] comment period in November that we haven’t heard anything [from the BLM] since then?”

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The Big Picture

Activists’ familiar opposition includes unvetted health claims while also alleging that production will hinder Ohio’s park’s natural beauty and conservation efforts. In reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth – and there’s a multitude of examples to show it.

Multiple operators across Ohio have leased public lands for years, including in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), a park with over 56,000 acres of land, with no hindrance to parkgoers. The revenue from the drilling has actually boosted the park’s conservation efforts, allowing the MCWD to re-invest $150 million in upgrades to the parks and lakes through water quality, infrastructure, and other programs.  This is in addition to the oil and gas industry in Ohio providing $100 billion in revenue since the Shale Revolution to the state, supporting schools and important county programs, and providing family-sustaining jobs to over 200,000 Ohioans.

Bottom Line: No amount of time, public comment, or oversight review will satisfy environmental activists, as their ultimate goal is the elimination of oil and gas development. These obstruction tactics only serve to hurt communities and harm American energy security, despite the oil and gas industry’s long legacy of safe and responsible development.

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