Ohio national forest OKs natural gas drilling

Associated Press Modified: August 27, 2012 at 7:31 pm •  Published: August 27, 2012
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CINCINNATI (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service said Monday that the shale drilling technique for natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing can take place in a national forest in southeast Ohio.

The Forest Service released its report after a study of the Wayne National Forest's land and resource management plan drafted in 2006. The forest's supervisor, Anne Carey, said in a statement that she determined the plan could adequately address any damage and risks to the forest from the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. She also said there is no need for a new environmental impact study.

Forest Service officials decided in November to review the shale drilling technology and the 2006 plan after objections from environmental groups and local government officials to the proposed leasing of more than 3,000 acres of mineral rights in the forest for oil and natural gas drilling. A federal auction of leases for those mineral rights initially scheduled for December 2011 was delayed by the Forest Service's study.

The Buckeye Forest Council, an environmental coalition, had said the Forest Service's 2006 plan was outdated because it did not mention hydraulic fracturing. The council, Athens county, the city of Athens and Ohio University opposed the leasing, with critics saying they were concerned that drilling could lead to groundwater contamination.

Hydraulic fracturing is a horizontal drilling technique for gas that blasts chemical-laced water deep underground to break up shale and release natural gas locked in the rock.

Energy executives say the technique has been used for decades without problems. Gov. John Kasich has said that further development of the gas beneath Ohio would create more jobs.

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