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Guide to DCNR: The Agency Balancing Drilling and Conservation Interests

Background

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources administers Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests.

1.5 million acres of forest sit atop the Marcellus Shale formation, and DCNR has leased out 700,000 acres of it for drilling. (130,000 of those acres were auctioned off during Governor Ed Rendell’s administration, before the Democrat issued an executive order placing a moratorium on future leasing in the last year of his tenure.) A 2010 DCNR estimate predicts forests may host up to 1,000 well pads and 10,000 wells, once drilling is up to full capacity.

In his 2014 budget, Governor Corbett proposed expanding leasing of state forest and park land to raise $75 million. In May 2014, Governor Corbett issued a new executive order that will allow for more leasing of underground mineral rights, as long as the activity does not create a new surface disturbance. Environmental groups have criticized the idea.

61 state parks are also located within the Marcellus Shale. Unlike the forests, Pennsylvania does not own the mineral rights for the vast majority of land underneath state parks. That means if the private landowners want to lease out their land for drilling, DCNR is required to provide “reasonable access” to energy companies. (Surface and mineral rights are sold separately under Pennsylvania law.)

Drilling in state forests is regulated by DCNR guidelines, in order to minimize damage to wildlife and intrusion on recreational hiking and camping.

DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti was confirmed by the state senate in December 2013.

DCNR is headed by Secretary Ellen Ferretti. She took over for the former Secretary Richard Allan, who was fired by Corbett in June 2013. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Allan was let go for sending a racially charged email.

Ferretti has spent her career working on environmental issues in and out of government. She previously served as DCNR’s deputy secretary for parks and forestry.

Latest Posts

Drilling plans for Loyalsock State Forest quietly move forward

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 [...]

Corbett agrees to hold off on new gas leases on state lands pending lawsuit

The Corbett administration has agreed to hold off on leasing any more state land for natural gas drilling until a case challenging the practice is settled. In exchange, the environmental group suing the stateagreed not to challenge the use of state conservation money to fund the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Pennsylvania Environmental [...]

Legislators seeking an extra $20 million from forest leasing

State legislators are looking to expand gas leasing of public parks and forests to raise more revenue in an effort close this year’s budget gap. Lawmakers are set to vote on a $29.1 billion spending plan today that anticipates $95 million in revenue from leasing more public land to drillers– that’s $20 million more than [...]

Do not disturb: what can drillers do with new forest leases?

The Corbett administration is preparing to lease approximately 25,000 acres of public park and forest land to raise $75 million for this year’s budget. Last month, Corbett issued an executive order overturning a 2010 state moratorium on new oil and gas leasing of public land. The administration has called it a restrictive approach to expanding drilling that will [...]

Judge will wait on decision over Corbett’s forest drilling plan

Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson says he will wait until the state budget is completed before weighing in on a lawsuit aimed at blocking the Corbett administration from leasing more public land for drilling. The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt additional leasing of public land and the transfer of $117 million [...]

New poll finds Pennsylvanians favor shale drilling, but not on public lands

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that a majority of Pennsylvania voters support the state’s Marcellus Shale boom. However, the poll found most of them oppose the idea of more drilling in the state’s parks and forests. Fifty-eight percent of voters said they are in favor of natural gas development and 33 percent said they oppose [...]

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 [...]

Rendell appointee: gas leasing on state land was ‘knife in the heart’

Two former Rendell appointees testified in court today about the pressure they felt to lease public land for gas drilling during their time at the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The two former DCNR secretaries– Michael DiBerardinis and John Quigley– testified before the state Commonwealth Court as part of a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense [...]

Court hears testimony on attempt to halt state forest drilling plan

The state Commonwealth Court heard testimony today on an effort to prevent the Corbett administration from opening up more public park and forest land to natural gas drilling. As part of a larger lawsuit, the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt additional leasing of public land and the transfer of [...]

Corbett lifts moratorium on gas leasing of state park and forest land

Governor Corbett issued an executive order today overturning a 2010 state moratorium on new oil and gas leasing of public park and forest land. The administration calls the executive order a restrictive approach to expanding drilling. It allows companies to extract gas horizontally from wells located on adjacent private land or in areas of state forests [...]

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