Trump Administration seeks to relax oil drilling rules through U.S. Forest Service rule change

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A new rule proposed by the U.S Forest Service has conservationists saying the Trump Administration wants to relax oil and gas drilling rules on Forest Service lands.

There are currently 5,490 federal oil and gas leases covering about 4.2 million acres — or 2 % — of national forest system lands.

The West Virginia Rivers Coalition does not want the Monongahela Forest with its many headwaters to be one of them.

“It’s important for us to protect these headwaters which in turn protect not only drinking water and surface water for our state but also the region,” said Dr. Sarah Cross with the coalition.

Although there are currently no active gas and oil wells in the Monongahela Forest, they say the plan, proposed on September 1st, could lead to this.

“When it comes to this proposed rule, it would make it a lot easier to implement oil and gas drilling on our national forest service lands it would also reduce the public input on the process,” said Cross.

Charlie Burd, the executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia says the rule is only streamlining the process.

“They’re just really proposing to clarify all the processes that the Bureau of Land Management and others have in place,” he said.

“It pretty clearly states that it doesn’t relieve the oil and gas operator from any responsibility to protect the land and the resources and the environment.”

But Cross says up to a million gallons of water are used in hydraulic fracking.

“There would be a lot more soil erosion, roads cut into our national forests, but also we’re very concerned about that much water being taken out of our streams then after the fracking process takes place you have a tremendous amount of water that has to be hauled out,” she said.

The Forest Service is taking public comment on the rule proposal until November 2nd.

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