API asks USFS to reject horizontal drilling ban in Virginia

The US Forest Service may be trying to make an arbitrary and unnecessary change in federal energy policies through its forest management process if it decides to prohibit horizontal drilling in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia, the American Petroleum Institute warned on Oct. 17.

“API’s concern is underscored by the fact that no ban on horizontal drilling was sought for the neighboring Jefferson National Forest (JNF), which also sits atop substantial Marcellus shale resources, by the USFS during its recent 15-year plan revision for that forest,” Erik Milito, API’s upstream industry operations director, said in comments submitted on the GWNF’s draft environmental impact statement and draft revised land and resource management plan.

A horizontal drilling ban also would run directly counter to the Obama administration’s shale gas development policy, he continued. “This in turn would frustrate efforts to reduce US reliance on foreign sources of energy and hurt efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by preventing more cost-competitive, clean-burning gas from coming to markets,” Milito said.

“Finally, and perhaps most critically, a ban on horizontal drilling in the GWNF would foreclose the creation of new local government revenue streams and thousands of new jobs in communities in and around the forest in the oil and gas, technology, service, transportation and related sectors,” he maintained.

Milito said that he considered the approach the USFS took in developing the GWNF draft EIS and draft plan arbitrary and inconsistent because it potentially would establish a policy which has not been scientifically substantiated. He urged the US Department of Agriculture agency to reject any proposal which would prohibit horizontal drilling in the forest.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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