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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.

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.)

Cindy Dunn is acting secretary of DCNR.

Courtesy of PennFuture

Cindy Dunn is acting secretary of DCNR.

Drilling in state forests is regulated by DCNR guidelines, in order to minimize damage to wildlife and intrusion on recreational hiking and camping. In 2014, the department released a multi-year monitoring report analyzing how drilling is affecting state forests, and concluded that shale gas development is “neither benign nor catastrophic.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has nominated Cindy Dunn to serve as DCNR’s secretary.

She previously was the President and CEO of the statewide environmental advocacy group PennFuture. Before that, she spent 12 years at DCNR, working under three administrations. She started out as director of community relations under former governor Tom Ridge and was appointed deputy secretary under Rendell. She stayed in the job several years into the Corbett administration before leaving in October 2013 to lead PennFuture.

Latest Posts

Commonwealth Court rejects appeal on state forest leasing

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court rejected an appeal by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation on Tuesday regarding drilling in state forests. The Court issued its original ruling last month in a case filed by the environmental law firm, which challenged the leasing of public land to natural gas drillers. In an en band decision on January 7, the [...]

Gov. Wolf bans new drilling in state parks and forests

Governor Tom Wolf fulfilled a campaign promise today by reversing course from his predecessor Tom Corbett and imposing a moratorium on leasing any more state park and forest land to Marcellus Shale drillers. Standing in a cold and windy meadow at Benjamin Rush state park, in the northeast section of Philadelphia, surrounded by a handful [...]

Wolf picks former Rendell appointees for top environmental posts

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has announced his picks for the state’s two top environmental posts. Both nominees will be heavily involved in overseeing Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry and have extensive backgrounds in environmental causes and government. Wolf nominated John Quigley to head the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.) He previously served as Department of Conservation and [...]

Report: Quigley, Dunn to head environmental agencies under Wolf

Pennsylvania’s Governor-elect Tom Wolf continues filling his cabinet with former Rendell-era staffers. Sources tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Wolf will name John Quigley as his Department of Environmental Protection secretary and Cindy Dunn to lead the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. More from the Post-Gazette: The official announcements of those nominations could come as soon as [...]

DCNR investigating gas companies over royalty payments

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is looking into whether some Marcellus Shale gas companies are shortchanging the state on royalty money. The agency manages gas drilling on public forest land and currently has 117 active leases with about 18 different companies. “We’re looking at the accuracy of payments,” says DCNR’s Chief Counsel, Richard [...]

Commonwealth Court: Governor not the decider on leasing public land

Decisions to lease state park and forest land to natural gas drillers lies with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, not the Governor’s office, according to a decision issued today by the Commonwealth Court. The court also ruled that the General Assembly can decide how to spend the royalty money generated from current and future [...]

2014 countdown: Chesapeake Energy royalties & gas company controls public roads

Our end-of-year countdown continues with the third and fourth most popular web stories.* This time, they’re both video features. In fourth place is our story about people blocked from public roads and public forests by security guards working for a gas company. Our third most popular web story is a follow-up with landowners who say [...]

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Wolf names more members to transition team

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Wolf appoints reviewers for DEP, DCNR, DOH and PUC

Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf has appointed a number of people to review departments and issues ahead of the January 20 inauguration. The reviewers will work with the current Corbett administration to “better understand the issues and challenges that face the executive branch,” according to a release. Wolf’s spokesperson Jeff Sheridan said the goal would be [...]

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