National Forests for Sale

first_imgThe George Washington National Forest is home to the headwaters of the Potomac and James Rivers, which flow through two capital cities, Washington D.C. and Richmond, Va. One of the largest forests in the eastern U.S., it’s more known for its rolling hills blanketed with trees than it is for energy potential. But natural gas drilling, along with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could be coming to this wild forest.The U.S. Forest Service originally disallowed horizontal drilling and fracking for natural gas within the George Washington National Forest boundaries. However, after pushback from the natural gas industry, the Forest Service began reconsidering. Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and companies do not have to disclose what chemicals they are using in the fluid pumped underground to bring gas to the surface. Some of the chemicals used in the fracking process could contaminate drinking water for many communities and poison some of the GW’s most celebrated rivers for fishing and paddling.We tend to confuse our national forests with our national parks, thinking of them as pristine and unspoiled lands that are protected from commercial usage. But national forests are often subject to the same uses as private land, from cattle grazing to coal mining. Traditionally the most common commercial activity on national forests in the East was logging. Then, during the energy crisis of the 1970s, nearly all national forest lands in the East were leased for gas and oil drilling. Most attempts at conventional drilling came up dry. The gas deposits were too hard to get at using then-known methods. When energy prices began to fall, drilling for natural gas in the East no longer made economic sense.Fast forward 40 years. America finds itself caught in a perpetual energy crisis. Politicians once again want the fuel under our feet, and public lands are seen as our salvation. New forms of drilling have now put the oil and gas resources beneath the Eastern public lands within reach. Much of the region’s drinking water comes from sources with headwaters in protected national forestlands. Will your drinking water soon be laced with fracking chemicals? Will your favorite forest campground or trail soon become a wasteland of wells, towers, and toxic ponds?Fracking 101America’s 21st Century shale gas boom has thrust hydraulic fracturing into the spotlight. “Hydrofracking,” as the process is known, is a catch-all term for a complex two-part method of natural gas extraction.It starts with horizontal drilling. A well bore is drilled vertically for several thousand feet before turning horizontally and continuing for several thousand more. A water and chemical mix is then pumped into the well bore at high pressure. The fluid breaks up the shale rock and releases pockets of natural gas trapped there. Much of the fluids return to the surface and the “flow back” must be kept in containment ponds or hauled off site; the rest seeps into the groundwater.The process of hydraulic fracturing has been used since the 1950s for making conventional vertical wells for oil, gas, and even water. The difference today are new horizontal drilling techniques and the massive amounts of water used—up to one million gallons of water per drilling site. Mixed with the water are toxic cocktail of chemicals—many of which are carcinogenic.Drilling supporters say the process is nearly 50 years old and has been proven safe in many communities in the Midwest. Opponents point to known cases of groundwater contamination and spills, saying fracking threatens water supplies throughout the Southeast.One thing is certain: fracking brings a large-scale industrial operation into wild lands. Roads must be constructed for the trucks that haul in fracking water, and pipelines are built to transport the gas to processing sites. A well pad, including its containment ponds, can cover up to 10 acres. When underway the operation, with its associated noise, light, and traffic, happens around the clock.“The footprint of fracking is larger in scale and more disruptive than logging,” says Sarah Francisco, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “With logging, the forest regenerates, and in 100 years the trees will have grown back. But with gas drilling there is a permanent well pad in a permanent clearing.” Fracking usually involves many well sites and a much larger cumulative impact that leaves behind poisonous ponds, toxic waters, and a ruined landscape.ShaleBasins_and_NationalForests_2013May24Click for larger imagePublic Lands, Private ProfitsWho determines if gas drilling takes place in a national forest near you? First, an energy company requests to lease certain national forest lands from the Department of Agriculture, which manages the national forests. The Department of Agriculture then places the land up for competitive bid on a quarterly basis. Anyone can place a bid and the winning bidder gets a 10-year lease to explore for oil and gas. If they discover reserves, they apply for another lease and an extended permit. The government gets a small percent of the profit from the gas extracted.The Southeastern natural gas boom exists in areas that sit over top of the Marcellus shale beds, which include Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. There are also known gas reserves in the Conasauga shale bed in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the Marcellus shale alone contains 262 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.There are approximately 8 million acres of public land in 17 national forests in the Southeast. Fracking has already occurred in two of these forests and is proposed for at least two more.Pennsylvania has been ground zero in the Eastern fracking debate, sitting on top of the thickest part of the Marcellus formation. The Allegheny National Forest contains 500,000 acres and is home to more than 12,000 gas and oil wells.West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest’s 921,000 acres are open to drilling; a test well was drilled there recently in the Fernow Experimental Forest. And last year, Alabama’s Talladega National Forest announced that it would lease 43,000 acres for gas drilling.The biggest concern is George Washington National Forest. At over one million acres, the GW is one of the largest undeveloped areas on the East Coast. Recently, the Forest Service began revising its management plan for the GW. Fracking opponents pushed for a prohibition on horizontal drilling in the forest. This was included in a draft of the plan before political and industry pressure forced to it be dropped.“We developed options to allow horizontal drilling on forest land,” said Ken Landgraf, planning officer for George Washington National Forest. “Part of our job is to develop America’s energy resources responsibly.”All national forests are administered by a management plan that is revised every 10 to 15 years. The GW is the first to come up for revision since fracking became prevalent. All eyes are on the GW.“We are in the driver’s seat,” Landgraf stated.A finalized management plan for the GW is scheduled to be announced this month. Meanwhile, other national forests are beginning to revise management plans, and fracking could be a major issue. Two of the most popular national forests in the Southeast—the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina—are revising their management plans this year.Areas of privately held mineral rights occur in all of the national forests. Ninety-three percent of the land in the Allegheny National Forest has its mineral rights in the hands of private companies. In the GW, 180,000 acres, or about 17 percent of the total land, has its mineral rights in private hands. Seven percent of the Talladega’s and 38 percent of the Monongahela’s acres have privately held mineral rights.When the Forest Service tried to prevent drilling on these leases, they quickly ran into legal challenges. In 2011 a federal appeals court ruled that the Forest Service was misinterpreting its powers and had no authority to control access to private minerals on public lands.“Companies have rights to their minerals [on private leases] and we cannot stop them,” Landgraf says. “But they do have to work with us [the Forest Service] jointly because they are using our surface.”David and Goliath: Communities Take on Big GasWith political will and industry money pushing for gas drilling in the national forests, what options do people who enjoy public lands and oppose fracking have?In 2011 Carrizo Energy, a Houston-based company, applied for a drilling permit for a lease on private land in Rockingham County in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The state quickly approved the permit. The county board of supervisors also seemed on the verge of signing off on the project. Then outdoor enthusiasts and local residents learned about the proposed well. They launched a campaign to educate the board and the community on the potential hazards of fracking. They were successful. The board tabled the permit, effectively preventing fracking on private lands in the county, which would include private mineral rights in the George Washington National Forest in Rockingham County.Then in 2012, when Alabama’s Talladega National Forest announced it would sell fracking leases, outdoor enthusiasts vocally opposed it. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed litigation under the Endangered Species Act, and in June 2012, the Forest Service announced it would delay the gas lease sale.It’s hard to say whether environmentalists won an outright victory or energy companies backed away from a fight in areas where gas production was uncertain. Nearby test wells in both areas failed to produce up to expectation. One thing is for sure: as the price of energy increases, supplies of petroleum dwindle, and technology improves, energy companies will keep the national forests of the Southeast in their crosshairs.Wanna find out the latest news on fracking plans for the George Washington National Forest? Visit protectthegw.org.last_img read more


Court cuts former PPP chief Romahurmuziy’s prison sentence to one year

first_imgThe high court also echoed the corruption court’s verdict of not requiring Romy to pay a restitution fee of Rp 46.4 million and not denying him political rights after serving his sentence.Read also: KPK action puts Religious Affairs Ministry back in spotlight for graftThe Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested Romy in March 2019 for allegedly accepting Rp 416.4 million in bribes from two Religious Affairs Ministry officials in return for his support for their promotions.The two officials, Haris Hasanuddin and Muafaq Wirahadi, were both found guilty of bribery and sentenced to two years and 1.5 years in prison, respectively. The Jakarta High Court has ruled in favor of an appeal filed by former United Development Party (PPP) chairman Muhammad “Romy” Romahurmuziy, who was found guilty of accepting bribes, reducing his prison sentence to one year.“[The court] sentences the defendant to one year in prison and a fine of Rp 100 million which, if not paid, will be replaced with three months’ imprisonment,” the appellate court verdict read as quoted by Antara news agency on Friday.The Jakarta Corruption Court initially found Romy guilty on Jan. 20 of receiving a bribe of Rp 346.4 million (US$22,220) from Religious Affairs Ministry officials in exchange for promotions within the ministry. The bench sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rp 100 million – only half of the four years demanded by prosecutors. Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesperson Ali Fikri said the antigraft body’s prosecutors would study the high court judges’ consideration upon the ruling and propose its next move to the commission’s leaders.“It is indeed lighter than the prosecutors’ demands. However, we must respect the judges’ decision,” said Ali.Read also: KPK arrested me due to my popularity on social media: RomahurmuziyIndonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) slammed the Jakarta High Court’s ruling, saying the court should give the former party chairman a heavier sentence.The watchdog compared Romy’s verdict to rulings against other party chairmen convicted for corruption, such as Luthfi Hasan Ishaq of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), who was sentenced to 18 years in prison, Anas Urbaningrum of the Democratic Party (14 years), Romy’s successor Suryadharma Ali (10 years) and Setya Novanto of the Golkar Party (15 years).“Such a light sentence, however, is not a new occurrence as we recorded that the average prison sentence given to graft defendants last year was only two years and seven months. If it continues like this, Indonesia’s ambition to be free from corruption will never be achieved,” Kurnia Ramadhana of ICW said.He urged the KPK to file an appeal petition to the Supreme Court.Topics :last_img read more


Only way is up for regional Qld real estate as it shakes off post-mining boom hangover

first_imgThe Susdorf family has their house for sale.PARTS of regional Queensland are on the cusp of a major real estate revival as they shake off the shackles of the post-mining boom hangover.Property prices have risen as much as 40 per cent in just 12 months in some areas, while towns like Emerald have bottomed and now join Mackay, Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone in the recovery phase of their market cycle, according to valuer Herron Todd White.Herron Todd White’s national property clock for October 2018 shows house prices in Queensland’s regional towns are in recovery mode.Some of the hardest hit mining regions are showing signs of life, driven by surging coal prices, capital works projects and renewed optimism.In the coastal city of Mackay, jobs are going begging and the rental market is tightening rapidly as growing confidence replaces the gloom of the past seven years.The average house price in Clermont, southwest of Mackay, has risen more than 42 per cent in the past year to $270,000 — albeit from a very low base.House prices in Moranbah, in Mackay’s hinterland, have jumped nearly 15 per cent in the past year.A surge in coal prices is benefiting regional Queensland towns that benefit from the mining industry.Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive Antonia Mercorella said Mackay was one of the strongest growing regions in the state, with its median house price growing 2.5 per cent to $335,000 over the year to June.“This market is benefiting from a jobs boom in the region and currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state,” Ms Mercorella said.“Jobs are bringing people back to Mackay and as a result, the rental market is also tight, at just 1.9 per cent.”In North Mackay, a modern three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse at 2/28 Malcomson Street recently fetched $305,000.This townhouse at 2/28 Malcomson St, North Mackay, sold for $305,000.The latest Herron Todd White national property report shows that buyers who bought distressed properties 12 or 24 months ago in a town such as Emerald are in a position to benefit.“Those who purchased during the last boom mostly still owe more than their house is worth, or haven’t quite got back to a position of building equity, however the market is on the rise and there is light at the end of the tunnel for these owners,” the report said.The pattern is being repeated in other towns, such as Gladstone.“For so many years, renovating your property in Gladstone was a pointless exercise as any money spent would be lost as the market continued to decline,” the report said.“Now that the market has turned the corner, we have started to see more renovation work taking place.“Most of this work appears to be on properties that were purchased in the past 18 months at bottom of the market pricing.”In Beecher, near Gladstone, a contemporary three-bedroom house on an elevated 2.4ha block at 61 Surveyor Place recently sold for $430,000.This house at 61 Surveyor Plc, Beecher, sold for $430,000.Herron Todd White valuers believe Rockhampton is at the bottom of the market.And it does seem the only way is up for the city, with the average house price rising more than 37 per cent in the past year, as confidence builds on the back of a new coking coal mine being built in the Bowen Basin.The median house price is only $180,000.A three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a pool at 13 Pillich St, Kawana, in Rockhampton sold last month for only $367,000.This house at 13 Pillich St, Kawana, sold for $367,000.The pool at the house at 13 Pillich St, Kawana.According to the REIQ, Townsville’s house price fell 3.3 per cent over the year to June to an annual median of $324,000, but local agents are reporting considerable activity with transfers coming into town.Some suburbs experienced exceptional house price growth over the year, including Thuringowa Central (up 28 per cent), Idalia (up 21.3 per cent), Rasmussen (up 19.9 per cent), North Ward (up 15 per cent) and Railway Estate (up 10.1 per cent).A four-bedroom, two-bathroom family home at 1 Santa Fe Way, Kirwan, in Townsville has just sold for only $275,000, while in the suburb of Douglas, a four-bedroom house with a pool at 219 Freshwater Drive fetched $415,000.CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless.Angelique and Jeffrey Susdorf are selling their five-bedroom family home in Mackay to relocate to Brisbane for work.The couple, and their four children, paid $385,000 for the property at 8 Jennifer Court, Bucasia, two years ago, but have listed it for just $360,000.“Even though the market is picking up, we’re still selling at a loss,” Mrs Susdorf said.“We did have it on the market for $400,000, but we weren’t getting any inquiries.“That ($360,000) is where the market is sitting at the moment in our area.”The house is near new, a two-minute walk from the beach, close to shops and include a 4x6m powered shed.This house at 8 Jennifer Court, Bucasia, Mackay, is for sale.Marketing agent Trevor Tippett of Ray White – Mackay City said the price of houses in the $200,000 to $350,000 range had increased between 8 and 15 per cent in the past six to nine months.“There’s very little under $300,000 now,” Mr Tippett said.“There’s stronger confidence in the market, the mining sector is picking up, more businesses are opening up in town and people are moving back to Mackay.His team recently sold six houses to Sydney buyers.“People are relocating here because they’re sick of Sydney,” he said.The kitchen in the house at 8 Jennifer Court, Bucasia, Mackay. 2`Ben Chick, director of Explore Property in Mackay, is also seeing demand for housing improve.“We haven’t seen a huge price jump just yet, but a greater volume of properties are selling,” Mr Chick said.“I think there are a lot more positives now than even in the boom for longevity in the property market.“People are making appointments to look at houses who had left the area and people from down south are starting to look up here from a work perspective.“The only thing probably holding us back is people being worried about what happened four years ago, but I think we’re in a better position now for steady growth rather than another boom.”Paul Bryan, director of Mackay real estate agent Penny Wood Lane, said it wasn’t uncommon a year ago for landlords to struggle to find a tenant within eight months, but now he was fielding multiple applications for rental properties and significant jumps in rent.“I definitely think the market’s transitioning,” Mr Bryan said.“But buyers, in my opinion, are still anchored to the prices at the bottom of the market, which I think we’ve passed now.“Locals are still hovering over the ‘go’ button and if they see a good deal they’ll jump on it.”Demand for housing is surging in Mackay. Picture: Rob Maccoll.Mr Bryan said days on market for certain properties were reducing and there were more savvy buyers in the market.“This is the first spring where we’ve seen a lot more confidence … since 2012,” he said.“Prices are still quite low — there’s some really affordable property in Mackay, especially in the unit sector.”But Mr Bryan said buyers still needed to be cautious.More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus16 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market16 hours ago“Going back eight years ago, you could buy four walls and a roof anywhere and you’d do well,” he said.“Now, you’ve got to be a bit careful.“I think that’s why people are hovering over the ‘go’ button, but I think next year will be the year.”CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless said property prices had been hit hard by the mining downturn, but he said the recovery in the mining sector would prompt a turnaround in home values.“Coming into 2019, markets like Mackay should start to see some growth, we expect Toowoomba to move back into positive growth and Cairns to see a bounce higher,” Mr Lawless said.“Many of these mining towns have seen values fall 30 to 50 per cent, so it’s overdue that we see values rising again.“Anyone who owns property in those areas will be very happy with this recovery — especially if they bought in the peak around 2014.”Ms Mercorella said the state government needed to do more to support the recovery in regional housing markets.“The REIQ has lobbied the government long and hard for the first-home buyers grant to be broadened to existing properties in regional Queensland,” she said.“It is our strong conviction that this would give some of those house markets a much-needed boost as young people and first time buyers, who are struggling to save a deposit, are given that important leg up to home ownership.Importantly, these markets do not need additional supply. You can already buy an established house in these areas for less than it costs to build.”This house at 1 Santa Fe Way, Kirwan, sold for $275,000.This house at 219 Freshwater Dr, Douglas, sold for $415,000.But some industry experts, such as SQM Research managing director Louis Christopher, are urging caution.“Investors should always keep in mind that regional towns can be far more volatile in terms of prices, so timing is paramount,” Mr Christopher said.He suggested buyers look to the mining regions only to diversify their property portfolios.“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said.“Don’t make it your first investment; make it your fourth or fifth.”RiskWise Property Research chief executive Doron Peleg said the risks associated with investing in mining towns was too high.Mr Peleg attributed that view to lending restrictions, weak employment markets and the likelihood of the Labor Party winning the next federal and state elections and potentially making changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax.5 RECENT HOUSE SALES IN QLD’S MINING REGIONSRegion Address Sale price Sale date1. Townsville 1 Santa Fe Way, Kirwan $275,000 Oct, 20182. Gladstone 61 Surveyor Plc, Beecher $430,000 Sept, 20183. Townsville 219 Freshwater Dr, Douglas $415,000 Sept, 20184. Rockhampton 13 Pillich St, Kawana $367,000 Sept, 20185. Mackay 2/28 Malcomson St, North Mackay $305,000 Sept, 2018(Source: Realestate.com.au)TOP 10 MINING REGIONS FOR HOME PRICE GROWTH Region Property type Median house price Growth in 12 mths1. Clermont House $270,000 42.1%2. Rockhampton City House $180,000 37.4%3. Mooroobool Unit $274,000 34.3%4. Mirani House $337,000 18.2%5. South Mackay Unit $210,000 15.7%6. Moranbah House $185,000 14.6%7. The Range House $383,000 13.9%8. Armstrong Beach House $304,000 13%9. Seaforth House $361,000 12.8%10. Kirkwood House $353,500 10.5%(Source: CoreLogic)last_img