Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Drilling plans for Loyalsock State Forest quietly move forward

A drill rig in the Tiadaghton State Forest. Although gas drilling is already occurring in many state forests, including the Loyalsock, environmental groups are opposing a proposed expansion in an area of the Loyalsock known as the Clarence Moore lands.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drill rig in the Tiadaghton State Forest. Although gas drilling is already occurring in many state forests--including the Loyalsock--environmental groups are fighting a proposed expansion in an ecologically sensitive area of the Loyalsock known as the Clarence Moore lands.

Controversial plans to expand natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest are quietly moving forward. Last month the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages drilling on public lands, met with two gas companies who own mineral rights there.

More than a year has passed since DCNR held a contentious public meeting on the issue in Williamsport. Since then, the agency has released very little information publicly.

Nearly 500 people attended that meeting, and everyone who spoke over a three-hour period expressed either opposition or concern. In a response to an open records request from the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, DCNR said it did not keep a record of the comments.

A DCNR spokeswoman did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.

The plans unveiled last summer involve 26 well pads and four compressor stations on a 25,000 acre swath of the Loyalsock forest known as the Clarence Moore lands– a popular area for wildlife enthusiasts and hikers.

Although the commonwealth controls the surface rights on about 18,000 acres, Anadarko Petroleum, along with Southwestern Energy Corporation, can exercise surface control on about 7,000 acres.  Some of that land is considered the most sensitive. Opponents want DCNR to use its control over the remaining 18,000 acres as leverage to keep development off the most sensitive parts of the forest.

Earlier this month, the agency held a conference call with a number of representatives from environmental groups involved in the Save the Loyalsock Coalition.

Joanne Kilgour, who heads the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter, was on the phone call and says the groups are frustrated the agency hasn’t been more forthcoming with details.

“We understand DCNR has a job to do,” she says. “We just view our role as integral to that. If we are kept in the loop with better information, the whole process could benefit.”

Nearly 500 people turned out for DCNR's three-hour public meeting on the Loyalsock drilling plans last June. The agency did not keep a record of their comments.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Nearly 500 people turned out for DCNR's three-hour public meeting on the Loyalsock drilling plans last June. DCNR says it did not keep a record of the comments.

According to Kilgour, DCNR staff were shown a map and a PowerPoint presentation of updated plans by Anadarko and Southwestern, but no one actually received physical copies of either, so the agency says it can’t share them publicly.

“There’s a lot more telling than showing at this point,” says attorney Mark Szybist of PennFuture, who was also on the call. “We’d like to be shown exactly what the companies are proposing and be able to weigh in.”

Anadarko spokeswoman, Mary Wolf, confirmed that her company and Southwestern recently met with DCNR. She says the agency is reviewing an updated development plan and a surface use agreement, but she wouldn’t provide more specifics.

“It would be inappropriate for me to say what has changed and what hasn’t changed, because it’s a work in progress.”

Wolf adds DCNR has not given Anadarko a timeline for how long its review process will take.

State Rep. Rick Mirabito (D- Lycoming) is sponsoring a bill that would require DCNR to provide notice and seek public input before allowing gas drilling on state forest lands.

“Recent developments involving the Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming County have shown that DCNR currently is not required to inform or engage the public in a meaningful way when it makes significant and far-reaching decisions regarding the management of these public lands,” he wrote in a co-sponsorship memo.

The House Democratic Policy Committee is holding a public hearing on the bill Monday in Williamsport.

After the phone call with DCNR, PennFuture and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania chapter sent a letter to the agency, asking for more information.

Read the letter here:

Letter to Devlin 7-14-14 by StateImpact_PA

Comments

  • http://www.crackineverything.com/ DeanMarshall

    http://marcellusmonitor.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/auditor-general-report-dep-was-unprepared-to-meet-shale-gas-monitoring-responsibilities/ If the DEP is unable to regulate and inspect ongoing drilling projects,, has failed to keep records and dismissed residents complaints of water well contamination, Fracking Must be halted by Moratorium to allow for environmental studies and the replacement of ineffective Public Agency Officials with those who will serve and protect.

  • Victoria Switzer

    a promise is a promise..if you take the money you must deliver…The State Forest is another kind of promise, a promise to our children. We can all watch this play out or we can say no. Hit the pause folks or watch this fast forward into a disastrous future for Penn’s Woods.

  • hmontaigne

    A friend and I drove way back into the woods in the Loyalsock, where everything was so still, there weren’t even any birds around. When we turned off the motor and opened the car windows, we heard the most deafening noise–a gas compressor somewhere in the area. I doubt that the drillers bother to muffle the sound for the sake of wildlife, but they should. We had to leave, it was so loud. No wonder the animals were gone.

  • kenneth weir

    Little tommy corporate has to provide his handlers with their reward. He got the money and now he is going to see to it that the drillers get their share of the booty. A classic example of socializing the costs , privatizing the profits and telling the public , through the mass media,that what they see ,is not what they see.

  • JimBarth

    The fact that the Corbett DCNR would drill this land, the fact that 500 people showed and would have spoken against, but, how could they in 180 minutes? Then, to salt the wound, the DCNR didn’t even record the comments. 500 citizens gave up their personal time, were probably allotted two, perhaps three minutes each, allowing 60? people, 90? people, and then no record kept? Corbett, and the people who run his DEP, and his DCNR, are a disgrace. They are a Krancer on the Commonwealth, where all roads lead to Blank Rome, or Oklahoma, or Texas. Thank goodness the democrat Wolf is at the door, but, will he be a sheep in Wolf’s clothing? Will he be another Hillary or Barack, who love to frac? God help us. I hope not. Mr. Wolf, use your teeth. Push green energy, not black energy.

  • Truth Serum

    Drill Baby Drill…we need this revenue to support the education system in the commonwealth

    • kenneth weir

      nothing more than a bandaide on the budget. classic boom and bust, where is the difference between the two parties?

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