Appalachian Basin

Public Sees Credibility in Wayne National Forest Decision

Recently, Wayne National Forest Supervisor Anne Carey signed a Finding for the Supplemental Information Report which determined there is no need to correct or amend the 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan or Environmental Impact Statement to address potential surface impacts of natural gas development in the Wayne National Forest.  Unhappy with this determination, critics immediately celled the Supervisor’s actions “criminal” and a “cover for doing what the industry wants her to do.”

Upset with a decision that opposes their goals, critics immediately sought to disparage a hard-working Federal employee who only did what was asked of her and based her findings on science and facts.  This is an upsetting tactic, completely disparaging a public servant whose only “crime” is to serve the U.S. Forest Service since 1981.   A letter in today’s Athens News shows the public is beginning to take notice of these tactics and finds them unfavorable as well.

First, some background is needed. To date, nearly 1,300 oil wells have been developed in the Wayne National Forest.  With no evidence of adverse environmental impact of this preexisting development, horizontal wells are a chance to decrease surface impact while increasing natural gas production.  Horizontal laterals allow for well pads that have a smaller environmental footprint than just about every other source of large scale energy production.  The horizontal method allows for multiple wells to be created through a single well pad, while traditional wells require multiple pads.

This can be seen in a 2009 review by the Ground Water Protection Council which analyzed the differences between modern techniques for extraction and traditional methods.  From the study:

“The use of horizontal drilling has not introduced any new environmental concerns. In fact, the reduced number of horizontal wells needed, coupled with the ability to drill multiple wells from a single pad has significantly reduced surface disturbances and associated impacts to wildlife, dust, noise, and traffic.” (Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer, April 2009)

It makes sense then, that the Wayne National Forest would reach similar findings. One would hope that a debate on scientific findings based on data and experience would be met with an equal level of pragmatism as opposed to an off the cuff remark comparing a federal employee to a criminal or someone doing the bidding of the oil and natural gas industry

It  the public has also noted the unfair accusations made by critics of the decision. The Athens News printed a Letter to the Editor this week concerning the subject titled “Critics of WNF decision seem inconsistent about the science”. In the letter, the writer says:

“The recent article, ‘Wayne Won’t Rewrite Forest Plan to Cover Fracking; Local Critics Boo Decision,’ showcases critics wrongly claiming that Wayne National Forest Supervisor Anne Carey was either bought by the oil-and-gas industry, or her actions are “criminal.” Carey was assigned the task of running a review and that was accomplished. But, because the well-educated decisions that were reached by the Wayne forest’s management plan don’t agree with critics’ world view, they must be corrupt.” The Athens News 9/3/2012

The writer makes a point that the US Forest Service was asked to research whether the management plan should change.

It seems possible that these professionals, who were asked to review and make the decision, are not bought and paid for. They also likely aren’t “criminals” either. Perhaps they are professionals with objective opinions based on sound experience and science.

The writer argues that the professionals at the Forest Service did their job and shouldn’t be demonized for a decision they researched and were assigned to make.

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