Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Will Goodlatte Frack the GW National Forest?

It's beginning to look like the George Washington National Forest's management plan for the next 10 years will include fracking and one of the primary backers of that is Rep. Bob Goodlatte, whose 6th District includes much of the forest.

Goodlatte was one of those (along with his comrades in arms, fracking industry leaders) howling the loudest recently when a ban on fracking in the million-acre forest was proposed. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "The Forest Service originally proposed to prohibit horizontal gas drilling on any future federal oil and gas leases in the GWNF, and at this time, no one knows if that proposal will stick in the final plan." Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration opposes disrupting the forest.

The T-D article continued: "Fracking, as is well-known, is a wretched process that ignores regulatory law — oil and gas companies have been given waivers from liability and regulation from nine federal laws that protect the environment and public knowledge, including the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. In cases where property owners fail to own mineral rights, a situation called 'split estate' occurs. That means anyone owning mineral rights has a right to develop those rights virtually without recourse to the land owners. In the GWNF, about 160,000 acres have existing private mineral rights."

Goodlatte in the national forest a few years ago.*
The T-D in its editorial (here)  says only 40,000 acres (five percent of the forest) "are currently and likely will continue to be available for oil and gas exploration and fracking." Already, 12,000 acres are being leased for oil and gas exploration (mostly by one Texas company).

The paper says that two years ago, when the Draft Forest Plan was initially introduced, "Handfuls of industry representatives and elected officials — led by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, whose district covers much of the GWNF — were outraged."

Goodlatte has had a zero environmental rating since the day he was elected to Congress initially more than 20 years ago. He has always been a friend of business in any conflict with the environment and when he was head of the House Agriculture Committee several years ago, he championed the Healthy Forest Initiative. That was one of those Orwellian Republican zig-zags that, in essence, said that in order to save the forest, we had to cut it down (with the logging rights going to big business).

Goodlatte has been routinely returned to Congress year after year by an ignorant or uncaring or uninformed electorate and this time, that electorate could see its decision making a West Virginia coal mining community out of one of Virginia's wondrous national forests. Remember one thing: The national parks are yours. They do not belong to business.

(*I took this picture of Goodlatte at the Devil's Marbleyard in Rockbridge County a few years ago when he invited me to join him on a hike so he could explain his "Healthy Forest Initiative." I didn't buy it then; I don't buy it now.)

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