Pennsylvania

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DCNR told Corbett administration not to lease more forest land for drilling

A top official at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said he advised the Corbett administration against leasing additional public land for natural gas development.

During testimony today before the state Commonwealth Court, DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forests, Dan Devlin, said he first learned of Governor Corbett’s plan to expand gas drilling in public parks and forests a few days before the executive budget was announced in February.

During discussions with the Governor’s Budget Office last fall, Devlin says he advised against additional leasing.

“We told them there was interest out there, and we didn’t recommend they move forward.”

Devlin’s testimony marked the end of a three-day court hearing that was part of a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF). The environmental group is attempting to block the Corbett administration from opening up more public land to gas development.

Former Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, leased about 130,000 acres of state forest land to gas companies, before he instituted a moratorium on future leasing during his last year in office. Last month Corbett lifted the moratorium in an effort to raise $75 million for this year’s budget.

PEDF is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt additional leasing of public land.

Devlin told the court he is comfortable with Corbett’s plan.

“As long as there is no surface disturbance, and we have control of the lease,” he said.

Under the governor’s new executive order, drillers would not be allowed to create any new or additional surface disturbances, such as roads, wellpads, or pipelines.

Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson asked if anyone at DCNR has recommended further leasing of state land for oil and gas development.

“I don’t believe anyone has made a recommendation,” Devlin said.

He declined to comment further to reporters after his testimony concluded, citing the ongoing litigation.

The hearing comes amid the final weeks of negotiation over the state budget, which is due June 30th. It’s not clear when the judge will issue a decision about the injunction.

Comments

  • crystalpoint

    Who the “hell” does DCNR work for? dah! Is it the Commonwealth of Pa., or Obama?
    Ray P. Smith

    • NorthernTier

      How do you connect this lawsuit with the federal government? It’s an internal (PA Commonwealth Court) argument about the proper destination and use of the revenues from gas extraction from DCNR administered land.

  • na

    Does anyone know if this exec order will allow additional well pads, pipelines, roads to be developed on previously leased tracks of land? I know the pitch was for no surface disturbance in forest but I’m seeing info suggesting pads and clearing will be allowed in previously leased tracks (Pine Creek valley, Loyalsock, large area). I am also seeing what looks like new well pad construction in state forest north of Little Pine Creek State park and east of Cammal PA, near school house road. Via google maps.

    http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/some-facts-about-shale-development-and-pennsylvania-state-forests/
    It’s also worth stressing: Governor Corbett’s lifting of the moratorium does not allow new surface leases to take place on state land. The only surface development will take place on privately held land adjacent to the forests, or in areas already under lease

    EID tells it like it is?

    • mariecusick

      Based on Devlin’s testimony, the executive order could lead to a new wellpad on a previously leased tract if it services both the previously leased mineral rights and the new lease.

    • KP

      I had to do negotiate something worse than this in Cammal, PA on Truman
      Run road all of last year trying to get to my daughter’s riding school.
      Truman Run is a very steep road and runs from 414 up and beyond the
      riding school to where they were digging wells. I’ve had to wait for 45
      minutes sometimes, before I could go up there. The gas company
      completely trashed the road to a point where cars couldn’t go up at all.
      We all wrote to the township, to no avail. Paul and Elaine’s riding
      school was impacted so badly, and they got absolutely no help from
      anyone.

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