West Virginia: Monongahela NF’s tree research in Fernow harmed by unregulated natural gas drilling

The Fernow, located in the Monongahela National Forest near Parsons,is used for research on growing trees and on better ways of timbering.
PEER filed a complaint Tuesday with the inspector general of the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, over the Fernow incident. “The Monongahela offers a textbook example of how drilling should not be done on a national forest,” said PEER executive director Jeff Ruch.

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PEER found documents indicating that the drilling pit fluids may have
leached out and killed more than two dozen nearby trees. “The are one
to maybe two dozen trees, mostly small ones, immediately adjacent to
the well pit on the lower west side, and a few above the well pad,
where the foliage is brown, and indeed on the lower west side, there
is little to no ground vegetation,” according to an e-mail message
Adams wrote and PEER obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Unless the inspector general intervenes, we will see more train
wrecks like what occurred on the Monongahela National Forest when the
price of natural gas begins to rise again.” Forest Service experts
were concerned that the project would harm critical cave habitat of
the endangered Indiana bat.

But Forest Service managers did not allow for formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the issue, according to the PEER documents. Scientists in the Forest Service were also concerned about potential damage from toxic materials in the “pit fluids” created by the gas drilling.

Forest Service staffers – all Ph.D. scientists – complained about these
issues to Michael Rains, director of the agency’s Northern Research
Station, which oversees the Fernow. The three scientists – Mary Beth
Adams, W. Mark Ford and Thomas M. Schuler – warned that approving the
drilling would violate several sections of the federal Endangered
Species Act.

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Comments (1)


Lower prices are bringing to an end an ambitious effort to squeeze more oil from aging fields and to tap new sources of natural gas. For the last four years, companies here drilled below airports, golf courses, churches and playgrounds in a frantic search for energy. They scoured the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Gulf of Mexico and Appalachia.

But the economic downturn has cut into demand. Global oil prices and American natural gas prices have plummeted two-thirds since last summer. Not even an unseasonably cold winter drove down unusually high inventories of natural gas.

The drop has been good news for American consumers, with gasoline now selling for $1.92 a gallon, on average, down from a high of $4.11 in July. But the result for companies is that it is becoming unprofitable to drill.

Was it just this summer that, according to the clerisy, high oil prices as our most salient economic problem was a verisimilitude. Well, now, for the sake of comity, is it just a bit discomforing that long term decisions like energy exploration, etc. are made at the wims of crazy short term price swings?

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