Federal and state officials concede there was a "miscommunication" between them over plans by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to put more than 4,000 acres of a state forest in Ohio up for oil and gas leasing, and the sale has been put on hold.
The BLM had scheduled a public auction on Dec. 12 to sell leases for 4,525 acres in the Blue Rock State Forest, which is in Muskingum County.
Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), told NGI's Shale Daily that the federal government owns 75% of the mineral rights under the state forest, while the ODNR owns the rest, plus the surface rights. He added that the BLM's protocol is to notify surface owners before any work toward a lease sale is conducted, including environmental assessments.
"They never got approval from us," Bruce said Wednesday of federal regulators. "They never got consent, there was nothing written, nothing verbal -- there was nothing. They moved forward. They did talk to us about an environmental assessment, asked us some technical questions, which we answered. Then they went forward with this public comment [period] and put it up for lease.
"Just earlier this week we found out about it. We had no idea it was even up for lease. We had no idea there was a public comment. We had nothing because we hadn't talked to them in a year."
According to reports, the BLM halted the lease sale after ODNR officials complained. Bruce said federal officials did not indicate when the lease sale would be rescheduled, or if the entire process would need to be restarted.
"A miscommunication is the best way to term it," Bruce said. "We want to work with them and talk to them in situations like this, and we did with the environmental assessment. We just had no idea they were moving forward with it, and apparently they thought they could."