A Threat to the US Forest Service's Multiple-Use Mission, Energy Security

July 13, 2011

In May, the Forest Supervisor for the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) released a Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) that included a proposed ban on horizontal drilling on all GWNF lands.  The ban is yet another example of the many unfortunate and burdensome regulations and administrative actions put forward by the Obama Administration.

As some may know, the practice of horizontal drilling provides significant benefits by reducing the footprint of oil and gas production and allowing for directional drilling in order to leave areas of environmental concern undisturbed.  While not finalized, the draft ban is of concern because it demonstrates yet another step in the wrong direction – moving our nation away from the responsible, multiple-use of federal lands.  Forest management does not mean closing off every parcel of productive land – the two can coexist, and do in many cases, including on Jefferson National Forest lands – less than 200 miles from George Washington National Forest.  

Critics say environmental regulators and the industry have failed to ensure that hydraulic fracturing is safe and does not have adverse environmental affects. However, federal, state, and local laws address every aspect of exploration and production operations. These include well design, location, spacing, operation, water and waste management and disposal, air emissions, wildlife protection, surface impacts, and health and safety. In addition to government oversight, much of the time industry standards and practices go above and beyond these protections.  That’s why I recently initiated a Joint Oversight Hearing, “Challenges facing Domestic Oil and Gas Development: Review of Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service Ban on Horizontal Drilling on Federal Lands.” The hearing was held by the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, which I serve on as chairman, and the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

The hearing’s panel received testimony from a number of experts regarding the proposed ban on horizontal drilling in the GWNF. Witnesses testified about the safety of hydraulic fracturing when paired with horizontal drilling and the job creation associated with natural gas production on our public lands. If you have a spare moment, take the time to view footage from the hearing by clicking below.