U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accept public comments

The Genetti Hotel will host a meeting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as it welcomes comments on the Endangered Species Act permit for future oil and gas activities in the state and in Ohio and West Virginia.

The meeting is from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at the hotel at 200 W. Fourth St., said Meagan Racey, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A coalition of nine oil and gas companies are requesting an incidential take permit to cover effects to five bat species from their oil and gas exploration, production and maintenance activities in these states, she said.

The service has invited public input as it begins an environmental review process to determine the potential impacts of issuing a permit for these activities.

The coalition is developing a habitat conservation plan to avoid, minimize and mitigate for effects to the declining bat species, Racey said. The plan will address issues related to the endangered Indiana bat, the threatened northern long-eared bat, the little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat and tri-colored bat.

The service will develop an environmental impact statement before making a decision on whether the agency can issue the permit.

Individuals may submit comments and materials through Dec. 27. During the 30-day public comment period, public meetings such as the one at the Genetti Hotel will be held.

For the first hour of the meeting, an informal open house will take place, followed by a 30-minute presentation and afterwards, the information open house will resume.

An online public webinar will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 20. To register for it, go to https://www.fws.gov/northeast/ecologicalservices/hcp/oghcp/html.