The forest must be protected.
Thus far, what Alabamians have heard are outcries from a few local politicians and crickets from those who have clout. Drilling is too political for some Alabama Republicans to stand up and tell Washington what must be said: No hydraulic fracking in the Talladega National Forest. Their silence is embarrassingly loud.
How different Alabama’s situation is from that of New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking steps to address environmentalists’ concerns about fracking and the need to drill for U.S. sources of oil and gas. Kudos to Cuomo for standing up.
Recently, The New York Times detailed Cuomo’s plans. They involve two basic premises: Fracking in New York state would be limited to only a few counties along the state’s border with Pennsylvania, and it would be permitted only in communities that supported the process. His plan, if enacted, would also limit drilling to the areas in which the oil and gas are at their deepest levels in an effort to reduce the possibility of groundwater contamination.
Additionally, the Cuomo plan calls for bans on drilling in Catskill Park, aquifers and “nationally designated historic districts.”
Granted, there is no guarantee that the New York governor will get his wish. As The Times explained, oil-and-gas lobbyists in that state have spent $4.5 million in Albany during the last three years. Nevertheless, this struggle’s die has already been cast on the local level: More than 100 New York communities have already passed moratoriums or bans on fracking; more than a dozen have passed resolutions that favor the process. (It’s interesting to note, as well, that Republicans in the North Carolina House have recently passed a bill that would legalize fracking in that state.)
In Alabama, the reaction to the once-delayed sale of leases of national forest land hasn’t been as politically obvious. Proud we are that Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges and state Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, oppose drilling in the forest. The Calhoun County Commission has wisely opposed it, as well. Alas, the Anniston City Council has not gone that far — its resolution only supports the postponement of the sales.
Our message to the Anniston Council: No fracking in the forest.
It’s apparently too much to expect Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to stray far from the Republican message of drill, drill, drill. The forest is federal land that the state does not control, but a strong no-drilling-in-the-forest message would help. This is where state government could lay the framework for a fair solution that protects the forest and allows the industry drilling areas to consider.