EPRI publishes two reports regarding AEP’s ReCreation Land
|AEP’s and EPRI’s analysis identified 25 potential shale gas well pad sites that would have manageable ecosystem services impacts at ReCreation Land in Ohio.|
(Story by Timothy Lohner)
One of American Electric Power’s best known symbols of environmental stewardship is the 60,000-acre reclamation project in Ohio known as ReCreation Land. The land was surface mined for coal beginning in 1947. AEP later remediated the site, planting more than 63 million trees and creating more than 600 lakes and ponds.
ReCreation Land is available for public use for various outdoor recreational activities. With nearly 380 campsites, the site also provides opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking.
In addition, portions of the site have been leased for oil and gas exploration. Oil and gas companies have approached AEP about leasing ReCreation Land property for shale gas production, a technology that previously had not been used at the site.
With help from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), AEP evaluated ecosystem service impacts caused by placing well pads on different sites throughout the property. To map the site and assess the impacts, EPRI suggested a tool called Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST).
In late March, EPRI announced the publication of two reports related to this evaluation:
- Minimizing impacts of land use change on ecosystem services using multi-criteria heuristic analysis, by Arturo Keller and Eric Fournier of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Jessica Fox of EPRI in the Journal of Environmental Management ; and
- Assessing Ecosystem Services Using the InVEST Model: Case Study of the American Electric Power ReCreation Lands, Ohio (EPRI Report 3002005275).
|ReCreation Land consists of 60,000 acres of formerly surface-mined land remediated for recreational use.|
Ecosystem services are life-supporting services provided by natural systems, such as pollination, erosion control, carbon sequestration, rainfall and climate regulation. Without these services, societies would cease to thrive.
Detailed site and mapping information already existed from an assessment EPRI conducted in 2002 to consider possible revenue from establishing environmental market credits (endangered species, greenhouse gas and wetland mitigation credits). The ecosystem services analysis was conducted on more than 200 potential well pad locations for shale gas production. The goal was to evaluate potential impacts to biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient and sediment retention and pollination.
The study found that the modeled ecosystem impacts were relatively small overall. It also found that those impacts could be mitigated within 30 to 40 years through active restoration to allow vegetation regrowth near the well sites. EPRI conducted further analyses to identify well pad locations that would be least impactful, and AEP used that information to identify 25 well pad sites.
Mike Williams, AEP Forestry supervisor, and his staff, were instrumental in performing this study. They provided mapping information and answered many questions regarding land use at the site. Tim Lohner, consulting environmental specialist, provided project oversight and noted that publishing the reports is a big step in sharing the results with the public and demonstrating AEP’s commitment to the environment. Their work also resulted in an [EPRI Technology Transfer Award ]to AEP.
The Nature Conservancy, Stanford University, World Wildlife Fund and other groups have received briefings on this effort. The results also have been shared with faculty members at The Ohio State University, who are using the project as a case study. The effort began in 2011 and demonstrates the value of multi-year, innovative, research projects.