A federal agency has plans to open most of Ohio's Blue Rock State Forest in Muskingum County to fracking, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
The proposal, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, would open 4,525 acres of mineral rights beneath the 4,578-acre state forest and two townships for bids from oil and gas companies during a Dec. 12 public sale.
The sale has environmental-advocacy groups questioning why neither federal nor state officials took any additional steps to inform the public.
A page on the bureau’s website lists parcels for oil and gas lease sales, but it doesn’t specifically name the Blue Rock State Forest. It is described as ’state-owned surface/federally owned minerals, lands in Ohio.’ A subsequent link leads to documents that name Blue Rock.
’It was posted in March with a public comment period of 30 days,’ Buckeye Forest Council attorney Nathan Johnson said. ’Unfortunately, it seems nobody in the state of Ohio got the message.’
In a statement, Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said the decision to auction the mineral rights under Blue Rock was made without their input.
’The Bureau of Land Management has not shared their environmental assessment with us, nor did they notify us of their public comment period,’ spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle wrote. ’(Natural Resources) owns a minority share in the mineral rights of the forest, but the decision to lease the mineral rights rests solely with the Bureau of Land Management.’
But Robert Gillcash, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, said the agency followed rules for public notification and that it put the land up for auction only after ODNR officials gave their consent.
’In this instance, the Department of Natural Resources gave consent to nominate the parcels in Blue Rock,’ Gillcash said. ’The (Bureau of Land Management) followed our standard procedures.’
He said the public-review period closed April 25 without comment.
The area that became Blue Rock State Forest was bought by the U.S. Resettlement Administration in the 1930s after it was extensively logged and deemed unsuitable for farming.
The administration transferred surface ownership to Ohio but kept control of the mineral rights.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.