Drill baby drill? Worrisome signs on public lands gas drilling from the Corbett Administration

I have mixed emotions about this subject. I’m convinced that our
country is in deep trouble, and much of it is related to importing
so much oil from the Mideast. So developing all the domestic energy
we can, such as natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation,
makes sense to me.

I regard it as a national security issue. And I wanted to see
the Republicans take control of Harrisburg, too. But now that they
have, there are troubling signs that the new administration is
being reckless with our public lands related to gas drilling.

The Corbett administration last week rescinded a joint Department
of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and
Natural Resources policy designed to protect state parks and state
forests from the effects of gas drilling.

The rollback involved the DEP/DCNR policy that required DEP to
consult and coordinate with DCNR in permitting drilling on public
lands where the commonwealth does not own mineral rights. The state
does not own the mineral rights under about 85 percent of state
park land, and 61state parks lie on top of the Marcellus Shale
formation.

Some of the nicest parks in the state park system are reportedly
targets of potential drilling including, Ohio Pyle, Ricketts Glen,
Cook Forest, Black Moshannon and World’s End.

A spokesperson for Governor Corbett said that rescinding the
cooperative permitting policy for state parks was the first step
toward additional leasing of state forestland for gas drilling and
a repeal of the executive order banning further leasing signed by
Governor Rendell last year.

The drilling industry already has access to 700,000 acres of state
forest — nearly half of the 1.5 million acres that lie over the
Marcellus Shale formation. Last year, DCNR conducted an extensive
and scientific evaluation on the effects of drilling on the state
forest, and concluded that no additional leasing could occur
without endangering the ecological integrity and wild character of
the forest.

Gas drilling on state forestland has effects on plants and animals,
on the integrity of the forest, and on recreational users of our
public lands. DCNR manages state forest lands with an eye toward
balancing the various values and uses, to protect the health of our
forests now, and 100 years from now.

Additional natural gas leasing on state forestland, according to
DCNR, will affect water quality, ecological integrity, backcountry
recreation, scenic beauty and other social and environmental
values.

Allowing natural gas drilling in state parks would be a terrible
mistake, as would allowing drilling to occur in sensitive areas of
state forest. If that is where Gov. Corbett is headed – and it
seems clear that it is – he will pay a political price down the
road. Folks like me won’t forget.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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