Under the current management plan, initiated in 1993 and originally set to expire in 2008, limited drilling was allowed. But, even though 12,000 acres are under lease by oil companies, the drilling never happened, in part because getting a permit was difficult. Companies first were required to In get permission from the BLM to lease land where they might drill, Landgraf said. Then, to actually drill, companies were required to pay for an environmental-impact study, which could easily be denied.
Fracking’s past and future
Shale gas is “a potential domestic resource that at some point in time can be safely extracted,” said Mike Ward, executive director of the Virginia Petroleum Council, a nonprofit group that advocates for the oil industry.
“We want flexibility to operate if improvements in the technology allow it,” Ward said. “The Forest Service has been flexible about this for so many years. They don’t have to issue any leases. To put a moratorium upfront slams the door without any further consideration.”