Wayne National Forest Fracking Strategy Session Fixed for 1/17/2017

According to the Ohio Environmental Council, a strategy session to address the concerns of oil and gas fracking in the Wayne National Forest is scheduled in Columbus Ohio for Tuesday January 17, 2017. The Bureau of Land Management opened an auction of leases between seventeen  and twenty one parcels of the forest on December 6, 2016. The auction is scheduled to begin March 23, 2017 and is open to 1,186 acres in the Marietta Unit of the forest.

The Notice of Competitive Oil and Gas Lease Sale is available at the BLM-ES website. The posting of the lease sale begins a thirty day protest period of the proposed leased parcels. Protests must be delivered in hard copy via postal service or fax, not emailed or by hand. The BLM received consent from the US Forest Service to offer these parcels in accordance with the revised 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan and the 2012 Supplemental Informational Report. In addition, resource specialists in the BLM Northeastern States District completed an (EA) Environmental Assessment During the process at the Athens Ranger District, public meetings were held in Athens, Ironton and Marietta Ohio. The final EA was released on October 13, 2016.

The March 23, 2017 lease sale will not authorize the successful bidders to develop their leases, according to the Bureau of Land Management, rather they are purchasing a lease which allows them to develop the parcel of land within ten years of the sale date.Because the sale does not authorize drilling, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was released at the same time as the final Environmental Assessment (EA). Although the lease holder will need further authorization before drilling or developing a well, the leases do contain some stipulation, mostly due to risk mitigation that are specific of the parcel. The risks can include soil erosion during construction, sensitive habitat disruption to the Threatened and Endangered Species Act, impairment of archeological research and detriment due to authorized recreational use.

Before any ground disturbing activity may begin on the auctioned parcels, operators must submit an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) to the BLM-ES. At that time, the BLM will initiate a site specific environmental analysis with the Wayne National Forest to determine the feasibility of the drill plan. The Ohio State of Department of Natural Resources will concurrently evaluate the APD for operational risks to groundwater.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees more than 245 million acres of public land, more than any Federal agency. The land is also known as the National System of Public Lands located in twelve Western states, including Alaska.  The BLM also administers to 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the USA. The BLM’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

This collaboration between the Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Revolution and a long list of interested organizations is scheduled at the Northwood High Building at 2231 N. High St. Columbus OH 43201. The event, hosted by Ohio Revolution, begins at 6:30 pm and ends at 8:30 pm. Off street parking is available for attendees.

Scott Bushbaum – Sierra Club / Miami Group – Executive Committee