COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal agency is again considering requests to open Wayne National Forest in southeastern Ohio to oil and gas drilling.
Oil and gas companies formally expressed interest to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in drilling about 31,900 acres of the forest through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1HqQRE0) reported.
The bureau said it's reviewing to see if the government owns mineral rights beneath those forest sections and to assess potential environmental risks. A bureau official said the agency has scheduled public meetings to discuss the industry's interest and proposed leasing.
Companies told the bureau in 2011 that they wanted to drill beneath the forest. The proposal was dropped after opposition from area residents and groups concerned that it would cause environmental problems.
"The concerns have even multiplied, because we know that fracking is problematic," said Athens County township trustee Roxanne Groff. "And even though the industry continues to say it hasn't caused any problems, we know that to not be true."
Jackie Stewart, spokeswoman for Energy in Depth, said private landowners have been "held hostage" by the federal government's hesitancy to allow drilling in the forest.
Stewart said some area residents have lease agreements with oil and gas companies, but they are unable to make money because their land is adjacent to Wayne National Forest and companies can't drill beneath it.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com