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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

Second lawsuit filed to halt drilling in state parks and forests

An environmental group has filed a lawsuit challenging the Corbett administration’s plan to lease more state park and forest land for oil and gas development. The Corbett Administration lifted a moratorium on new leases in state parks and forests with an executive order last May to help plug a budget gap. The lawsuit filed by [...]

Commonwealth Court takes up issue of drilling in state parks and forests

The fate of expanded natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s parks and forests is now in the hands of seven Commonwealth Court Judges. Governor Tom Corbett wants to lease 25,000 acres of additional state land to drillers in order to raise $95 million to plug a hole in the 2014-2015 fiscal year’s $29.1 billion budget. The [...]

State regulators take a closer listen to gas compressor stations

Most of the noise created by natural gas development is temporary. After drilling and fracking, the workers and equipment are gone. A gas well in production is pretty quiet; it’s basically just a bunch of pipes in the ground. But compressor stations can stay noisy for years– even decades. The facilities are necessary to process and [...]

Heirs to 19th century lumber baron claim gas rights in Loyalsock State Forest

A group representing the descendants of a 19th century lumber baron is claiming most of the mineral rights in an area of the Loyalsock State Forest where there are controversial plans to expand natural gas drilling– it’s a direct challenge to two gas companies who say they own the rights and have already submitted development [...]

On public land, a gas company takes private control

On any given day Bob Deering doesn’t know how much trouble he’ll have getting to and from his home. He lives on a mountain in Lycoming County and he’s routinely stopped and questioned by security guards. It’s been happening for the past six years– ever since the natural gas boom began. “I’ve been coming up here [...]

Public will get to weigh in on Loyalsock forest drilling plans

Facing mounting public pressure, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced today it will seek public comments on controversial plans to expand natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest. At issue is a 25,000 acre swath of the forest known as the Clarence Moore lands– a treasured area for wildlife and recreation.  DCNR’s [...]

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 [...]

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