Feds plan biggest auction yet of oil-and-gas leases in Wayne National Forest

Published: May. 18, 2016 at 4:59 PM EDT
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UDPATE: 01/17/2017 2 P.M.

The federal government has announced plans for another online auction of oil-and-gas leases involving land in the Wayne National Forest, and this one is the largest yet.

The Bureau of Land Management auction will start at 8 a.m. March 23 on the website

The 21 parcels of land being made available in the Marietta unit of the forest cover 1,186 acres.

Successful bidders would have the right to develop the land over a

10-year period, but no drilling would be allowed until proper permits

are obtained.

Anyone wanting to protest the inclusion of a specific parcel in the auction must do so by mail or fax No later than Feb. 13.

In December, oil-and-gas drilling companies from West Virginia and four other states paid more than $1.7 million at auction for the right to explore 17 parcels covering nearly 759 acres.

UPDATE: 12/15/2016 08:00 a.m.

(AP) - Oil-and-gas drilling companies from five states have paid more than $1.7 million for the right to explore parts of Ohio's only national forest with future hydraulic fracturing in mind.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that the federal agency leased 759 acres of land in Wayne National Forest to fossil fuel development companies in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and Oklahoma.

Environmental groups protested the federal government's auctioning of mineral rights in the southeast Ohio forest. The Bureau of Land Management received 100 "valid" complaints during its 30-day comment period, all of which were denied on Monday.

Opponents contend that fracking threatens public health and local wildlife by polluting the air and water.

Lessees are still required to obtain a permit before any drilling could begin.

(AP) - Despite strong opposition, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has made roughly 719 acres of Ohio's only national forest available for lease by oil-and-gas drilling companies.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the bureau on Tuesday began accepting bids on 17 government-owned parcels, which represents less than 0.3 percent of the southeast Ohio forest.

A BLM spokesman says the federal agency had initially advertised the auctioning of the leasing rights for approximately twice as much land.

Leases only allow exploration at this time. A lessee would still be required to obtain a permit before any drilling could begin.

Environmental advocates challenged the auction, arguing that fracking threatens public health and local wildlife by polluting the air and water.

Wayne National Forest consists of more than 250,000 acres in the Appalachian foothills.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Parcels of land at the Wayne National Forest will be auctioned online starting December 13, 2016 and some people aren't happy about it.

Last week, protesters voiced their concerns at Senator Sherrod Brown's office in Columbus, Ohio. They dressed up as wildlife to send a message about all of the animals that may be affected by the fracking.

An online petition has gotten over 90,000 signatures calling for the cancellation of the auction. Most of the companies interested in leasing are large out-of-state corporations.

WTAP talked to both sides to get a take on the issue.

"We are very concerned about making sure the national forest is protected too. That's our job and we take it very seriously. We believe we've done a very good job with our environmental analysis and will continue to do so," said Jason Kirchner, public affairs officer for Forest Services eastern region.

"These are facts that the government has yet to be able to accept because it's the oil and gas that's in control, so we just have to keep fighting harder," said Roxanne Groff, an Athens County Fracking Action Network member.

Federal leases are going for as little as a $1.50 to $2 an acre.

Fracking is a big topic in the Mid-Ohio Valley and Wednesday several organizations gathered to discuss why they oppose the possibility of fracking in Ohio's only national forest.

Members from Athens County Fracking Action Network, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, and others say they are outraged at the proposal.

They say the 113 page environmental assessment developed by the Bureau of Land Management, suggesting that fracking be done in Wayne National Forest is inaccurate.

The BLM is giving citizens until May 29 to provide comment on the proposal, just thirty days after it was released.

"We believe that the Wayne National Forest is a treasure we have in southern Ohio and the thought of fracking in the Wayne is appalling. The impact on the lands, the wildlife, the people that live in that environment because of the toxins, contamination to air, water, soil is very concerning," says member of the Athens County Fracking Action Network, Andrea Reik.

The organizations are calling on the public to write legislators, the BLM and the Wayne National Forest and ask for an extension on reviewing the lengthy document.

They say 30 days is not enough time to do research on a document that took 90 days to complete.