The federal government plans to open close to 2 million acres of national forests and grasslands in Texas to oil and gas drilling. If the rounds of public consultation stay on schedule, energy producers could have the opportunity to purchase leases for up to 20 years for land in eastern and northern Texas by 2021.
Four forests in the Haynesville Shale of East Texas and Louisiana and two grasslands in the Barnett Shale of North Texas would be affected by the plan, which aims to access over 68 million barrels of oil and 4.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to allow oil and gas firms to drill more than 1,000 horizontal and 500 vertical wells to access the new sources of fuel.
The proposal has prompted opposition from environmental groups concerned about the impact the drilling would have on rare animal species and the local environment. But energy sector officials argue that oil and gas companies already have a presence in both areas and take adequate measures to ensure no damage is done to local waterways and wildlife habitats.
“Texas oil and natural gas operators comply with all state and federal regulatory requirements and adhere to the highest levels of safety and environmental standards,” said Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association. “This commitment holds true in all areas of oil and natural gas development throughout the state of Texas.”
Oil and gas companies drilled in both areas until 2016, when the Obama administration imposed bans on drilling on federal land following campaigns by environmental groups.