On Tuesday December 13th the Federal government will open auction intended for oil and gas lease rights for 1,600 acres of Wayne National Forest near Marietta. The minimum acceptable bid for each acre can be as little as $2 per acre.
Wayne National Forest is a patchwork of public lands scattered among private land. Mineral rights for approximately 60% of the land are privately owned. The Bureau of Land Management controls drilling on federally protected lands like parts of WNF. It should be noted that oil and gas extraction has long taken place in the forest (about 1,250 conventional wells), however, these are mostly small and many are no longer active.
Not the First Time
This has been a 10 year process; with Industry fighting to allow private owners the choice to utilize mineral rights. Shawn Bennett, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a trade group remarked, “It opens up lands that are required to be leased by several federal statutes,” and is “a step in the right direction.” Ohio Environmental groups on the other hand argue the negative impacts of fracking to the wildlife and water supply will be problematic. “This decision is bad for wildlife, bad for recreation, and bad for the overall health of the Wayne,” said Nathan Johnson, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council.
About 50 people demonstrated against the auction at Wayne National Forest headquarters in Nelsonville on Saturday. Opponents also delivered more than 99,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop Tuesday’s auction.
As of current the BLM plans to move forward, awaiting public comment on the auction. “The project does not violate any known federal, state, local or tribal law or requirement imposed for the protection of the environment,” said the report, signed by Dean Gettinger, a district manager for the bureau.
Will we see more of these lease auctions under a Trump administration?
More information about the leases and filing objections can be found at http://go.usa.gov/xKHr4.