Ohio Conservancy District Shows Oil and Gas Leasing Commission How to Safely Develop Public Lands
Ohio operators have been safely leasing and developing oil and natural gas on public lands in the state for years, according to a presentation the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) gave the Ohio Oil & Gas Land Management (OGLM) Commission on Wednesday.
The MWCD’s presentation comes after the passing of H.B. 507 which allows for the development of oil and natural gas under the surface of state-owned lands following years of obstruction and continued activist attempts to slow roll this progress.
The MWCD’s experience is a perfect case study as to how oil and natural gas production and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, can be done safely and responsibly, while enhancing public conservation efforts.
MWCD: A Case Study
MWCD is a park with more than 57,000 acres of land that has been leased by multiple oil and natural gas operators for years. At the OGLM meeting, officials from the district highlighted that their land and lease management is the “gold standard” for leasing with strict regulations in place to ensure they are protecting the watershed and that development poses no hindrance to parkgoers – something they believe they’ve accomplished.
In a video highlighting these standards, Brad Janseen, Chief of Natural Resources and Land Management, says:
“We work with the operators to do things like sound walls for sound proofing and buffering. We do surveys before a rig even gets on the pad.”
Officials also emphasized their long history of safety with zero incidents thanks to MWCD’s close collaboration with responsible Ohio operators and inspectors at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ensure all development is conducted correctly.
As officials noted, the revenue from oil and natural gas 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.
MWCD Director of Communications Adria Bergeron has said:
“Without the investments through the shale development, it was not as easy for us to make the improvements that we’re looking at making today, and truthfully, it’s very likely would never have been able to afford many of the improvements that we’ve seen.” (emphasis added)
And officials noted that these investments are just the beginning. In addition to continued improvements to the park, they also plan to study how these investments have helped boost surrounding economic activity through ancillary businesses that support Ohio tourism in the watershed and surrounding counties.
Janseen emphasized these important investments:
“The investment has been transformative to the district…what we’ve been able to do to the benefit of the public and our stakeholders has been excellent.” (emphasis added)
Bottom Line: Activists’ agenda to try and slow-roll oil and gas development was dealt a major blow today as the Commission heard testimony highlighting the good stewardship of Ohio’s oil and gas producers on public lands. The long partnership between industry and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District can and should be used as a model to prove how development on Ohio state lands can be done safely and to the highest environmental standards while helping preserve Ohio’s pristine lands.