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I blogged about this about a month ago here, but recent revelations have warranted a fresh entry on this matter.  As the title of this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article states, oil and gas drilling is "out of control" in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest.  The Allegheny stands as a sad example of what is wrong with our energy policy and how we will never drill ourselves to energy independence.

Oil and gas drilling is devastating this area of Pennsylvania, not just the Allegheny National Forest.  As the article states:

What's going on atop Pennsylvania's northwestern plateau is an oil and gas boom that is among the biggest since 1859 when Edwin Drake drilled the well that launched the modern oil industry in Venango County, south of Titusville.

The Forest Service is falling all over itself to demonstrate that they are doing what they can to limit the impact of drilling in the Allegheny.  According to Forest Service spokesman Steve Miller:

"We've done a lot of things in terms of personnel and focus on the most critical issues where there is the highest likelihood of resource damage," Mr. Miller said. "The operators have the right to access the minerals under Pennsylvania law, but we are working with them to do the least amount of damage."

This, however, is in stark contrast to the Forest Service's own words and their record of complying with environmental laws.  First, the Forest Service has stated on page 3-276 in this Draft Environmental Impact Statement that those

seeking a more remote and less developed recreation experience could be displaced to other State or National Forests where remote, semi-primitive settings are more readily available.

This is basically the Forest Service telling the oil industry "we've got your back."  The Forest Service is willing to sacrifice the Allegheny National Forest to the oil industry at the expense of public recreation, quality wildlife habitat, and watershed protection.  

This is evidenced by the fact that the Forest Service has allowed drilling to occur in sensitive areas without the proper permits, as the Post-Gazette article states.

Please contact the following people and let them know this is no way to manage the Allegheny National Forest:

U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell

Allegheny National Forest Supervisor Kathleen Morse

Governor Ed Rendell

U.S. Senator Bob Casey

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter

U.S. Congressman John Peterson

U.S. Congressman Phil English

Originally posted to paprog on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 03:54 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  wow...this is terrible (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paprog, keechi

    thanks for the diary

    •  It is terrible (7+ / 0-)

      I meant to state in the diary that the amount of oil that is being recovered in the Allegheny pales in comparison to our national consumption.  

      For instance, the Forest Service has stated that the amount of oil drilled in forest annually is about 6.5 million barrels per year.  The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels every day.  It's pointless what they are doing...it's only for profits...the environment and public be damned.

      •  Just Wanted To Point Out (6+ / 0-)

        Not that this in any way justifies the expansion in drilling, but Pennsylvania-grade crude oil is of a far higher quality than other oil available elsewhere (it's arguably the "best" oil in the world).  Penn-grade oil has virtually no sulphur, nitrogen or asphalt compounds, and its extremely high viscosity makes it ideal to refine into lubricants, such as motor oil (there's a reason why the brands Pennzoil and Quaker State are so named, even though neither has been headquartered there for many years now).  It's also used extensively in cosmetics and lotions.  Most other grades of crude are vastly less useful in this regard.

        So while the volumes produced in the Allegheny Forest are insignificant compared to the remainder of domestic (and global) production, crude from, say, the Gulf of Mexico or Saudi Arabia is not really a direct substitute.

        What makes this incursion so tragic is that because Penn-grade crude is so rare, synthetics have cropped up over the years to meet global demand, thus making it wholly unnecessary to wring every last drop out of the Pennsylvania hills.

      •  Question, in light of your figures. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        paprog, keechi

        Could you translate the difference between 20 million barrels per day/6.5 million barrels per year into, for instance, how mny mpg increase in the CAFE standard would be equivalent? I'm guessing less than 1 mpg. This would make a very powerful talking point for my letters. And this doesn't even take into account the recreational value of the Allegheny forest which will be lost forever to all, while lining the pockets of a few.

        •  Check this out (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Maven, Halcyon, A Siegel, keechi

          this press release from Senator Obama last year.

          According to that proposal, increasing fuel efficiency 4% per year would save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day...or, to put it another way, with a 4% increase in fuel efficiency, we'll save in 5 days what is extracted in the Allegheny in a year.

          •  Reading the press release, the Senators (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            paprog, keechi

            are proposing a 1mpg per year increase in fuel economy, over 20 years. Thus:  1 mpg improvement in fuel economy would eliminate the need for a year's worth of drilling in the Allegheny forest in five days. And how many years' worth of drilling in the Allegheny forest is projected? I'd guess way fewer than 73 years (365/5). This illustrates the travesty of the greed. If Triumph Hill was depleted in a mere 12 years, then we're talking 2 months' worth of fuel.

            OTOH, if The Maven's comment is correct, then much of this oil is destined for other uses.........

            •  On average (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Halcyon, keechi

              a typical oil well lasts for 20-30 years.  

              I think the Forest Service and oil industry predicts that the economically recoverable oil will be gone if 50 years.  

              But the impacts will be around for decades after that and the bill for the restoration will be given to the taxpayers.

  •  Here are links to those devastating pix (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paprog, A Siegel, slksfca, keechi

    from your prior diary:

    Google earth view

    Remains of Triumph Hill in 1871 after the 1859 oil rush went bust.

  •  "Our National Treasures!" says BushCo. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paprog, A Siegel

    "They're all mine, mine, mine!!! I'll have Dick drill in anyone's backyard I want to - it's all mine, mine, mine!!!" - Diary of Bush's thought's as he picks his nose, and kicks Barney (his dog) - snark, snark...

    But seriously, I've been fighting our government over the environment and protecting our National Forests since the 1970's - the battle is never done and, now, the question is - how do you fight a dictator?


    "NFS Clearcut" (C)1984-2006 Brad Michael Moore

    Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

    by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 05:28:06 PM PST

    •  I bet they said (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel, keechi

      that clearcut was for "ecosystem restoration" or "forest health" purposes...right?  

      •  It's for Mono-cultured Even-age asset growth... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        paprog, A Siegel

        Of course, if you only replant a forest of, let's say, Yellow Pine - and then the Yellow Pine Bark Beetle comes to visit - you'll have to refinance. Either way - you'll never be able to replace the diversity of flora and fauna that did once exist there. Such fools are we who don't see...

        Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

        by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 05:42:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  In the Allegheny (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          keechi

          the Forest Service monocultures black cherry.  Black cherry is the most valuable hardwood in North America I think.  So, there is a lot of clearcutting for black cherry production (an early successional species that requires full sunlight for optimal growing conditions.)

          The Allegheny was once one of the most heavily logged national forests per acre in the country.  The cut has gone down in recent years but it is on the rise again.  

          Forest health monitoring has actually indicated that there is a direct correlation between the amount of black cherry in the forest and the severity/frequency of insect defoliations.  Go figure...yet they keep managing for this one species because of it's extremely high value.  At one point, black cherry was going for nearly $5,000 per thousand board foot!

          •  In each region the Replacement Species... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            paprog, A Siegel

            ...changes. But the point is - if you mono-culture any ground that once supported a soft & hardwood forest - you've destroyed nature's heritage. Something that evolved over tens of thousands of years - ruined in less than a hundred-fifty...
            BTW, what happens to this Black Cherry crop? Is it used here, in the USA, or, is it imported to Japan, Taiwan, China, etc...

            Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

            by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 06:11:02 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Black cherry (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              A Siegel, keechi

              is exported mostly to China and Europe (Germany and Italy mostly I think).  There it is made into valuable products and reimported to the U.S.  Some of it is used here, but most if it is exported I think.  I know that as of a few years ago, around 80% of the world's black cherry supply came from the Allegheny Plateau and I think about 20-25% of that was directly from the Allegheny National Forest.

              According to early survey records from the 1700 and 1800's, black cherry was approximately 1% of the overstory (which makes perfect sense considering it is early successional).  

              Today, black cherry is about 30% of the overstory.  The Forest Service maintains they are not managing for black cherry...they like to blame everything on deer (deer eat other tree seedlings but don't like black cherry).  But the evidence suggests that their management is the leading factor in why there is so much black cherry (from herbicides, fertilization, and fencing)...and when you look at the value, it's really hard to ignore reality.  

              •  Interesting that they say they are not (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                paprog

                managing for it. Looks like they are not, either.  They are managing for immediate, not long term profit.

                The bulk of the seed crop falls to the ground in the vicinity of the parent tree. Circles of advance seedlings beneath scattered cherry trees and an absence of seedlings elsewhere are common occurrences in closed stands. As a result, the amount of black cherry advance reproduction is highly dependent on the number and distribution of seed-producing trees in the overstory (7).

                Cutting down all the seed trees, and eliminating the seed bed is the usual mo.

                In fact, germination is somewhat less on mineral soil than on undisturbed humus or leaf litter (37,43). Few seeds germinate in areas that have had the organic horizons stripped off or that are compacted by logging machinery. A moist seedbed is required for good germination, and burial of seeds to a depth of several inches is beneficial, apparently because it provides a stable moisture supply. Shade also improves germination by helping to maintain stable moisture. Germination is best beneath a canopy that represents 60 percent stocking or more, and germination decreases at lower canopy densities and is poorest in full sunlight (43,47).

                A two-cut shelterwood sequence is what is recommended for peak production, and dominance of the species. Problem is, they take the whole frickin' stand. A shelterwood cut now is done as a two stage clear cut. And a clear cut by any other name still leaves no production for 50+ years.

                We need to get these robber barons out of our Commons. At the very least, if logging is to be allowed, it needs to be done as it is by Clint Trammel at the Pioneer Forest in Mo. Or as Jason Rutledge and the Biological Woodsmen practice it. Single tree selection. Restorative Forestry, not anniliation.

                I love Jim Webb. He's so different from John McCain.

                by emmasnacker on Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 04:28:04 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  shelterwood = clearcut (0+ / 0-)

                  like you say, though, it's done in a couple stages.  The Forest Service has spent large sums of public tax dollars to refine how to turn the Allehgeny into a black cherry tree farm for private timber industry profits.  

                  If only they spent that same amount of money to find ways to protect hemlock (which is being killed by the hemlock wooly adelgid) and beech (which is being killed by beech bark disease).  Hemlock and beech were originally the co-dominant trees of the Allegheny Natioanl Forest region but when they were wiped out in the clearcutting over a century ago, it was black cherry and other shade intolerant hardwoods that came back and the Forest Service started managing to keep the "new" forest rather than allow succession to take its course and allow that native hemlock/beech forest to evolve.  

                  Now the Forest Service uses the two diseases to say we can't have that forest back...of course, they fail to mention that black cherry is about 20 times more valuable than those two species...that is the more critical factor for them I think.  

              •  whoops, linky (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                paprog

                I love Jim Webb. He's so different from John McCain.

                by emmasnacker on Sun Jan 28, 2007 at 04:29:16 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Is there gas up there too? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              paprog, A Siegel

              Here, in Texas, Enron, dba EOG, is ram-rodding seismic surveys everywhere and building huge rig settings right on the sides of our roads and highways... Mostly they're poking something called the Barnett Shell, for natural gas. What's really sad - they using rural people's well water to frac their wells instead on just surface water - as they did in the past. In nearby Parker County, the wells of 300 families went dry because of oil companies sucking up the local ground water. Think what they're likely doing in your national forest - if they think no one's around to see what they'll try to get away with?

              Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

              by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 06:27:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                A Siegel, keechi

                There's natural gas as well.  Most of the drilling is for oil, but there are many gas wells and combination oil/gas wells as well.  

                They're drilling everywhere in the Allegheny.  Along roads, even roads that are designated "National Scenic Byways".  They've drilled along the North Country National Scenic Hiking Trail (similar to the Appalachian Trail).  They've even used portions of the North Country Trail as roads for drilling.  They've drilled in a National Scenic Area containing the largest old growth forest between the Adirondacks and the Smokey Mountains.  

                Now, one company is planning to drill in a Roadless Area protected under the 2001 Roadless Rule.  The Forest Service claims that the Roadless Rule allows road construction for drilling purposes if the mineral rights are privately owned, but that is ONLY if there's no other alternatives.  The Forest Service has said there are alternatives but is still planning to let them go in a build roads for drilling.  

                It really is a nightmare situation and trying to get a legal handle on it is frustrating.

                •  It really is a nightmare... (0+ / 0-)

                  America - the once-beautiful...

                  What a shame...

                  Publicly is the best bet - expose their wrinkles and they'll likely, "Time-out," until they can find another Botox-fix...

                  Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

                  by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 06:43:30 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  We're trying to do that (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    keechi

                    I had this op-ed in the Post-Gazette recently.

                    We've been keeping oil and gas drilling in the media locally for the last month and the Forest Service and DEP are having to speak to the press...which they don't do often except for their own propaganda.

                    Hopefully, this will force some changes.

  •  Depressing Truth... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paprog

    Thanks for the link - what an irony... A federally protected forest with a 1000 drilled rig operations upon it... What exactly is being protected? Who owns the mineral rights - are they being paid. I've heard oil companies drill on federal lands all the time and don't pay royalties - especially to tribal owned lands. There's been a big stink about in in western states recently.

    Consider; is it better to plot a strategy and wait, or set a course, and run? - BMM

    by keechi on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 09:28:19 PM PST

    •  There's really nothing being protected (0+ / 0-)

      The Hickory Creek Wilderness and Heart's Content area of the forest is the only "protected" area...but this is less than 2% of the forest.  The remainder is really not protected, particularly from oil and gas drilling because of the private mineral ownership.

      Over 93% of the mineral rights are privately owned under the Allegheny - either by individuals or companies.  Because of this, there's no royalties...if it was federal leasing of minerals, there may be royalties, but since the Forest Service is not leasing the rights, no royalties are paid.  

      And the Forest Service provides the oil companies, at taxpayer expense, free stone from mined areas of the forest for their roadbuilding...they also get the trees from building roads and well pads.  

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