Monday, May 08, 2006

Oil Companies Raping land for Spite.

Two oil companies have suddenly decided to pick on Ohioans by exercising obscure mineral rights clauses that allegedly allow them to clear public forests that may or may not be encroaching on their rights of way. It started when Marathon/Ashland acquired an easement from Columbia Gas Transmission that allowed Marathon/Ashland to clear a 100 foot wide swath of land through some of Ohio's most interesting forest lands in the Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. Not only were trees cleared, but pristine creeks and rivers were fouled when the pipeline was buried beneath the beds.

Obviously leaks and ruptures are a pressing concern, but more disturbing is the insistence that a considerable amount of land must be kept clear for dubious security matters. However, Marathon didn't stop there. They cleared municipal park land in Columbus to widen the pipeline easement and have even marked large trees in established Columbus neighborhoods for removal, leading people to question the motives as it is unlikely that any terrorist would be able to gain access to a pipeline buried deep beneath urban yards or metro parks. Somebody would see them and police would be called. Perhaps the portion of the pipeline that cuts through rural forest land would be at limited risk, but in the city? Not likely.

Columbia added insult to injury when they notified state officials that they intended to lay waste to hundreds of acres of forest in the Mohican State Park and Forest near Mansfield, Ohio. Park officials are skeptical that Columbia needs to clear a 300 foot radius around every well and question the need for clearing a 50 foot easement along its pipeline that serpentines throughout the park. The energy brokers aren't apologizing. They claim they have a right to protect their wells and pipelines and insist that the citizens are lucky because they have a legal right to clear more. Shouldn't it be these companies that feel lucky that they are permitted such intimate access to public land in the first place? Consider the record profits.

It's a real tragedy. Ohio has limited forest land available for recreational use and the most attractive areas are those that these two oil mongers have attacked so heartlessly. Columbia gave Marathon an outmoded easement in Hocking Hills to provide Marathon a free pathway on which to increase its profits and Columbia is setting its sites on one of the most intriguing hemlock forests Ohio has to offer in Mohican. Why?

If security is really a concern, it would be easy to partner with state and local officials to closely monitor the pipelines and wells. It's not as though simply clearing easements will make the areas more secure, time and money will still have to be invested in observation and that's on top of the money being spent on clearing the trees. So why not skip the tree cutting and ask the state to lend the help of it's rangers? See if local Sheriffs can be asked to drive an ATV through the rural stretches of the pipelines. If it really is a security issue, there would be no shortage of help.

It just doesn't make sense. There's no logic to it. Unless you factor in spite. Who loves the forests? Liberal tree huggers. By exercising perceived right of way variances during a political era of business friendly legislation, these companies can take a huge cheap shot at the liberals where it will hurt them the most: protected public land. Take that, pinko.

It's bad enough we have to put up with their comprehensive pollution that spoils our water, air and view when they erect their oil transport operations on private property. Now they can walk right on to public land and chop down grand old trees leaving tick infested weed beds in their wake. It's not about security, it's a vendetta. Plain and simple.

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