The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 17, 2012

Gas leases not worth damage to environment

Associated Press

Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser on leasing forest lands:

Although the wild-eyed “drill, baby, drill” approach is neither economically nor environmentally sound, in general, the policy of expanding the use of domestic energy resources makes sense. But that doesn't mean that every proposal for energy extraction should proceed, and that is certainly not the case with an ill-advised plan to offer natural gas leases in parts of Alabama's Talladega National Forest.

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are set to sell leases in several sections totaling about 43,000 acres of the forest, even though there is much that argues against doing so. It's always possible that no one will buy the leases or that the acreage will never be explored for natural gas even if leased, but that's little comfort to Alabamians concerned about the environment in these areas.

The areas targeted for leasing include stretches along the fragile and ecologically significant Cahaba River in Dallas and Perry counties; sections adjoining the Cheaha Forest near Mount Cheaha, Alabama's highest point; sites near the Dugger Mountain Wilderness; and a tract near a drinking water reservoir in Calhoun County.

There well may be natural gas deposits in these spots, but the real question is whether the gas that might be there is worth the environmental damage that could be wreaked to extract it, especially given the abundance of natural gas from other sources and the low price of natural gas in current markets.