The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has opened new areas in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest to oil and gas production.
The 240,000-acre Wayne National Forest is a patchwork of small plots, interspersed with private property, spread over 12 counties. In mid-December 2016, BLM offered 719 acres in the forest for lease and, according to its website, it plans on auctioning an additional 1,186 acres on March 23, 2017. Twenty-two companies bid on the leases in December, paying more than $1.7 million for the right to explore for oil and gas on the land.
The Wayne National Forest already has more than 1,200 conventional drilling rigs within its borders, but this lease sale was specifically for production using hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” a process that doubled oil and gas production in the state between 2014 and 2015.
As part of a comprehensive forest management review, BLM identified as many as 40,000 acres with oil and gas potential that could be opened to drilling in the future. BLM has determined drilling would have no significant impact on the environment and would not violate any known environmental protection requirements or local, state, federal, or tribal laws.
More than 50 oil and gas companies have already announced their interest in fracking in the Wayne National Forests if additional parcels are offered for lease.
‘Good for Taxpayers, Consumers’
Rob Bradley Jr., CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, says management of what are now public lands could be improved further by privatizing many of those lands.
“Increased mineral development on public lands is pro-taxpayer and pro-consumer, although free-market advocates would prefer privatization of the federal domain to improve entrepreneurial decision-making,” Bradley said. “Critics of BLM’s action should embrace the idea of privatization where auctions could be held for surface areas, subsurface development, and both.
“Environmental groups, for example, could bid for the surface and resource companies the subsoil, and even enter into partnership agreements for win-win outcomes,” said Bradley. “The proceeds from privatization could be used to reduce budget deficits and the total outstanding [national] debt itself.”
Yash Rojas ([email protected]) writes from Lake Jackson, Texas.