Appalachian Basin

Utica Shale Development in Wayne National Forest One Step Closer to Approval

Yesterday the Bureau of Land Energy Management (BLM) scheduled public scoping hearings on shale development in the Wayne National Forest (WNF).  The hearing will take place on November 17-19th and will be an opportunity for the BLM to hear the voices of hundreds of Southeastern Ohioans who support continued energy development in Wayne.

These hearings are part of an ongoing and long-lasting battle over resource development in the WNF.  To recap: in 2011 leasing proposals were being offered for the portion of the Utica Shale formation located in the WNF, which sparked the ire of a handful of local activist groups that opposed any resource development.  These groups then compelled the WNF to review its 2006 Forest Plan, which allows for the leasing of federally-owned minerals.

After a thorough review by a team of experts, the WNF determined that there was no need to correct or amend the 2006 Land Resource Management Plan and no reason to supplement the Environmental Impact Statement that was prepared for the 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan.  In 2012 Wayne National Forest Supervisor Anne Carey signed a Finding for the Supplemental Information Report to this effect, stating:

“I have reviewed the new information contained in the Supplemental Information Report, and determined that further environmental analysis is not needed…I believe that the existing Forest Plan direction is adequate to address the surface effects anticipated from the potential development of horizontal wells as projected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).”

Any progress made in opening up the WNF is cheered on by many Southeastern Ohioans, who view any ban on WNF resource development as an infringement on their property rights.  As noted in a press release published in the Akron Beacon Journal:

“The Wayne National Forest is a patchwork of public land in southern Ohio scattered among private lands. Nearly 60 percent of the minerals under the Wayne’s surface are privately held, even though the surface land is controlled by the federal government. Without federal approval, though, privately or publicly held energy resources cannot be developed under the Wayne’s surface, preventing landowners from realizing the full value of their minerals and Ohio’s economy from experiencing shale’s full economic benefits.” Emphasis added

If and when such development is approved for the WNF it will be-like any other oil and gas development- thoroughly regulated by several local, state, and federal government agencies.  The newly-scheduled public hearing will give the BLM a chance to hear from Ohioans who support energy development, like Becky Clutter, the founder of Landowners for Energy Access and Safe Exploration, who stated:

“We’re glad to see the federal government make positive progress toward approving leasing of federal minerals in the Wayne National Forest.  A small group of extreme environmentalists hijacked this debate four years ago and effectively blocked hard-working, southeastern Ohio landowners from realizing the full value of their minerals. It’s time for the federal government to quickly grant approval for energy development in the Wayne that will restore private property rights and provide an economic boost for our region’s economy.”

The public scoping hearings will be held on November 17, 18, and 19 in Marietta, Athens, and Ironton, respectively.

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