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Environmental groups protest plan for potential oil, gas drilling in Talladega, Conecuh national forests

By Jeremy Gray, al.com

974 days ago   Article ID# 1554647
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Natural Resources Defense Council

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA (al.com) - The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Wild South and Natural Resources Defense Council, today issued a formal protest in response to the Bureau of Land Management's plans to sale natural gas and oil leases in 43,000 acres of national forests in Alabama.

The BLM on June 14 will auction oil and gas rights in 35 parcels in the Talladega National Forest and one in the Conecuh National Forest.

The groups fear the auction of natural gas and oil leases could open the area to fracking, a process that involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into underground formations, releasing the gas trapped there.

"This type of gas drilling has a large footprint, so drilling operations could significantly fragment wildlife habitat in the national forest and contribute to the industrialization of nearby rural land. The groups are asking the BLM to remove the Alabama national forests from its proposed lease sale," the SELC wrote in a news statement.

The BLM hosts such auctions every 90 days, spokesman Kevin Flynn today. Flynn this afternoon said the BLM does not yet have a comment.

The SELC said the areas proposed for leasing contain or are near the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, the Chinnabee Silent Trail, Talladega Scenic Drive, Cheaha Mountain and Rebecca Mountain, and waterways including Choccolocco, Cheaha and Shoal creeks, as well as other tributaries to the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Cahaba rivers.

"Based on the little environmental information available on the proposed lease areas, many are habitat for endangered, threatened or at-risk fish and wildlife, such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker and several fish and mussel species," the SELC statement read.

"This is an illegal giveaway to the oil and gas industry, and it must be stopped. The BLM is turning a blind eye to the very real risks of damaging our forests and harming the health of everyone who lives nearby," said Matthew McFeeley, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in the news statement. "More than ten percent of the Talladega National Forest is being put on the auction block without giving the public any chance to weigh in."

Copyright 2014 al.com   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 974 days ago   Article ID# 1554647

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