Here is an op-ed from the 21st, “Explanation needed: Why are we selling oil and gas leases in Talladega National Forest?”
Although the safeguards and regulations — if put in place and adhered to — do seem to promise that any drilling will be conducted as environmentally friendly as possible, this page is waiting for a better explanation of why the leasing is being done in the first place.
Considering the rising price of oil and gas, finding new supplies would seem a justification; however, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service told The Star that it was unlikely that much of the land would ever be drilled.
If that is the case, if there is not much chance oil or gas could be profitably extracted, then why lease the land and raise fears and concerns that are currently rising?
Is this a way to raise money for a financially strapped agency, or to help reduce the national deficit?
And why was there so little notification that the leasing would take place? Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges, in whose district some of the land lies, did not know of the plan until it was announced. Courtesy, if nothing else, should at least require that local officials be told of what was in the offing.
As so often happens when a federal agency decides to do something, the need to explain those actions seems of little importance. This adds to the widely held belief that bureaucrats do things because they can, and the public be damned.
Rather than create another case of agency insensitivity, the BLM and the Forest Service need to step back, delay the sale and explain to the public why their plan is good for those who own the land — keeping in mind that a “National Forest” belongs to the nation, not to the agencies that oversee it.
Note from Sharon: I thought oil and gas leasing occurred due to Congress’s (elected officials) intentions, and the agencies are following through on the results of energy legislation. Apparently they decided that the leasing program is “good for those who own the land.” There does seem to be more controversy over energy uses of public lands in the east than the west, although there is plenty in the west as well.