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Lawmakers Urge Against Drilling In Loyalsock State Forest

Nicholas_T/ Via Flickr

Environmentalists argue the state has the power to restrict gas drilling in portions of the Loyalsock State Forest.

State lawmakers and environmental groups are urging the state not to pursue natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has come under scrutiny over whether or not it plans to allow Anadarko Petroleum to access mineral rights the company owns underneath the forest.

At issue is a 25,000 acre swath known as the Clarence Moore lands. Anadarko owns about 50 percent of the mineral rights, but there is a legal question as to whether DCNR has to give them surface access to drill for gas.

WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson reports Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware) has helped lead the charge to block the expansion of drilling in the forest. He says plans call for 25 new well pads in a pristine area, and the state has the power to restrict it:

But Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokeswoman Chris Novak says the state sees its control in less black-and-white terms than some environmental advocates would suggest.

“In the circumstance where the commonwealth does not own the mineral (subsurface) rights, we are required by law, by some legal decisions, to provide reasonable access to the owner, or to the person who leases those rights,” said Novak. In this case, that owner or person is Anadarko. Novak said there’s no timetable for finalizing an agreement with Anadarko about drilling in Loyalsock State Forest.

DCNR was criticized by environmentalists for holding an invitation-only meeting with local stakeholders about the issue earlier this month.

The agency recently agreed to hold a public meeting, but has not yet announced a date and time. They are also holding an informational webinar with the Penn State Extension tomorrow.

In the meantime, Vitali is organizing a meeting for May 1 at Lycoming College in Williamsport to discuss what can be done to preserve the forest.

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