After facing months of public pressure over the possibility of expanding natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) held a public meeting on the issue.
DCNR estimates between 400 to 500 people turned out tonight to Lycoming College in Williamsport. The meeting ran an hour over its scheduled time slot, due to the number of people who wanted to comment.
Everyone who spoke expressed either concern or opposition to the proposal, which involves 26 well pads, and four compressor stations over a 25,000 acre swath of state forest, known as the Clarence Moore lands.
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 in the Loyalsock. Some of that land is considered the most sensitive. Some opponents want DCNR to use their control over the 18,000 acres as leverage to keep Anadarko off the most sensitive parts of the forest.
Despite the public opposition, DCNR Secretary Richard Allan says his hands are tied.
“Those companies or parties come to us and ask us — or tell us– that they want to access their mineral rights. We enter into discussions in order to see what we can do to minimize the impact.”
Allan stressed Anadarko’s plans are still preliminary and have not been approved. He says there are no plans right now for more public meetings.
StateImpact Pennsylvania spoke to several people attending the meeting about why they oppose expanded drilling in Loyalsock:
One of the most entertaining public comments came toward the end of the evening from ecologist Kevin Heatley of the Responsible Drilling Alliance.
He says one of the reasons he opposes drilling near the forest’s Old Logger’s Path, a wilderness trail, because he once got lucky there:
This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: An earlier version underestimated the number of people who attended the meeting. Although DCNR did not require people to sign in, they had about 200 people do so. The agency estimates between 400 and 500 people attended the meeting.