The head of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told a Senate panel on Monday that royalties from natural gas drilling on public lands will bring in about $60 million in revenue this year.
At a budget hearing in Harrisburg, DCNR Secretary Richard Allan went before the Senate Appropriations Committee and took questions on how his agency is handling drilling on state lands.
DCNR manages approximately 2.5 million acres, and about 700,000 acres are either currently leased or the mineral rights are owned by someone other than the agency. Governor Corbett’s recent budget proposal keeps funding to DCNR level from the state’s General Fund, at just over $52 million.
Allan told the committee there are currently 307 producing gas wells on those 700,000 acres.
Most of the legislators offered praise.
“You’ve been asked to do a great deal with very little,” said Sen. John Yudichak (D- Luzerne) “Your staff and you have risen to the challenge.”
Sen. Gene Yaw (R- Lycoming) told Allan he’s heard the gas industry has helped open up more public land with roads and trails to make it more accessible for recreation.
“You’re doing such a good job in opening land up and making it available. The next thing we’re going to hear is you need more money for management because there are too many people using it.” said Yaw.
Sen. Jim Ferlo (D- Allegheny) was alone in his sharp criticism of the gas industry.
“They’re not caring. As far as I’m concerned they’ve committed environmental pillaging of a lot of the land in the area outside the domain of DCNR.”
Ferlo told Allan he’d like to see more transparency and public input into how drilling occurs in environmentally sensitive areas.
“Unless I’m wrong, there’s not a public review process where people would be able to formally comment to the Department, or to yourself as the Secretary, prior to you rendering some actual formal decision,” said Ferlo.
Allan replied he feels the agency uses best management practices to oversee the whole process from start to finish.
“The type of transactions I’m talking about are discussions about proprietary information with these companies that own those mineral rights.”
Allan will go before the House Appropriations Committee for another budget hearing on Tuesday, March 5.