Appalachian Basin

Foraging for Facts in the Forest

Another story in the Athens News grabbed our attention this week when reporter Jim Phillips wrote about the upcoming Federal Bureau of Land Management auction of 5 parcels of land located in the Wayne Forest. The five parcels amount to 3,302 acres and is divided up between the counties of Perry, Gallia and Athens in Southeastern Ohio. The land through the leasing process is being made available to access Ohio’s vast natural resources in this case for exploration and development of oil and gas.

First, some background on the Wayne Forest. According to the United States Forest Service “Few eastern national forests have rich mineral deposits to rival those underlying the Wayne National Forest.” This auction will be the fourth since 1990 in the Wayne Forest. The entire process of leasing parcels like those located in the Wayne are governed and regulated by several Federal regulations and laws dating back to the 1920 Mineral Leasing act and the 1987 Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

Currently, in Athens County there are 2 Federal leases in the Wayne accounting for 1,429 acres and 2 private leases for 3,757 acres. The entire leasing process is open and transparent. The process begins with the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service reviewing the impacts to wildlife, habit, water quality, and other critical resources. Once those agencies and their scientists certify that the project is safe and the environmental impacts are minimal, a notice is made public of the date and time of the auction. At this point anyone who is interested and available may attend and bid on the parcels. After the notice is made public anyone can file a formal letter of protest against the auction.

Athens resident, Heather Cantino, who serves on the Board of Buckeye Forest Council, said that “the group is deeply concerned about the risks to water supplies if the horizontal fracturing method is used to drill for oil and gas in the Wayne.”

Let’s set aside the fact that the “hydraulic fracturing method” isn’t used  for drilling — and has nothing at all to do with the drilling process.  And let’s instead focus on the fact that fracturing has a track record of safe operation here in Ohio that extends back more than 60 years, with 80,000 completed via the technology in that time without any adverse impacts to groundwater, according ODNR.

As for the assertion that “many hundreds of chemicals injected into wells for horizontal fracturing are highly toxic and are used at levels of tens of thousands of gallons per well.” As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. One would hope however that folks who give of their time to serve on a board such as the Buckeye Forest Council, whose membership turns to them for leadership, would base those personal opinions on facts rather than wild claims not based on the truth. It is easy enough to find the truth about what is and more importantly what is not in the production fluid used, ONDR has a provided a long list of the fluids used during the process.

This auction will put 3,302 acres up for bid through a fair and open process. Judging by the economic impact study that was released last month by OOGEEP when those acres are put to work producing Ohio’s natural resources, those good folks that are in and around Athens County will see the benefits and still be able to hear the birds singing, see the deer jumping around and still enjoy all the beauty that is Wayne Forest while providing good and lasting jobs producing Ohio’s natural resources.


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