Energy. Environment. Economy.

Corbett budget proposal expands drilling in state parks and forests

An oversize truck load of natural gas industry equipment moves slowly along an icy mountain road in the Tiadaghton state forest.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

An oversize truck load of natural gas equipment moves slowly along an icy mountain road in the Tiadaghton state forest.

Governor Corbett is seeking to overturn a Rendell-era executive order that placed a moratorium on new gas leases in state parks and forests.

Today Corbett unveiled his $29.4 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year. He says allowing new oil and gas leases could immediately generate $75 million in new revenue to the state, with substantial additional royalty revenue in the future.

Corbett did not directly mention the issue in his budget address to the legislature, but he touted the benefits the Marcellus Shale has brought to the state, noting that Pennsylvania is on track to become the second-largest producer of natural gas in the nation.

“Shale gas offers our country a chance at energy independence and greater economic security – and it’s part of the all-of-the-above strategy we’ve put in place,” Corbett said.

Non-impact drilling

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby called the proposal a restrictive approach to drilling. He says gas companies would not be allowed to construct new well pads. Instead, they could lease new underground mineral rights near existing drilling sites or through adjacent properties.

“We’re looking at an approach that makes no surface disturbance to the land,” says Zogby. “These are pads that are already out there. From a public standpoint they’re not going to see any activity that they otherwise might not.”

In a budget brief put out by Corbett’s office, the proposal called for allowing “non-impact drilling,” which was defined as, “limited drilling activity on commonwealth-owned land, where drilling can occur without the need for additional surface impacts.”

Zogby declined to answer a question about whether transporting approximately 4 million gallons of water per well to a site constitutes a surface impact. It’s not clear whether the measure will allow for new permits for gas-related infrastructure, like pipelines or compressor stations.

When asked by StateImpact Pennsylvania if this budget proposal will effectively overturn the Rendell-era moratorium on new leasing, Zogby said Corbett is planning on issuing his own order.

“I think you’ll see a new executive order issued at some point in the future by the governor,” he said.

Mixed reaction

Legislators were cautious in their responses to the proposal.

“I am obviously sensitive to the concern people have about drilling in the state forest and I’d like to see the details of his plan before I come to a final judgement,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R- Delaware).

Senator Gene Yaw (R- Bradford) chairs the senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. He said he hadn’t heard much about Corbett’s plan.

“If it’s non-impact, it’s something to look into,” he said. “But as far as I know, the moratorium placed in effect by Governor Rendell is still in effect.”

Senator John Yudichak (D- Carbon) the minority chair of the committee. He says he’s concerned about the idea, calling it a budget gimmick.

“Anytime you hear ‘non-impact drilling’ that certainly raises eyebrows and raises concerns,” he says.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a gas industry trade group, praised the budget proposal.

“This common sense, pro-growth budget reflects the clear fact that safe, tightly-regulated shale development — which occurs overwhelmingly on private land as well as on taxpayer-owned land — is a powerful economic engine,” said MSC spokesman Steve Forde in an email.

Meanwhile environmental groups condemned the idea of leasing more land.

“This will place more and more of the budget burden on the backs of public lands,” said PennFuture president Cindy Dunn in statement. “The governor reveals the short-sighted nature of his stewardship of our natural resources by trading more long-term harm to our state parks and forests in return for short-term economic gain.”


  • Fuck Fracking

    Is Pennsylvania so broke now we must covert our treasured State Forests into a cash register? Wasn’t it revealing enough to PA. residents we’re not getting rich quick from fracking when Corbett cut the school budget a billion dollars? This guy has to go!

  • TinaMc.

    Fracking or industrial zones, there is no in-between. Our forests can not survive the impacts that they have already been condemned to, for the almighty dollar, with the leasing of our contiguous forests.

  • Victoria Switzer

    I have yet to see NON IMPACT DRILLING….

  • davidmeiser

    In 2011 DCNR scientists finished a study that looked at current gas leases, sensitive areas within the forest system, and nearby gas activity. Their conclusion was that any further leasing of state forests would jeopardize the long-term health of the woodlands.

    this must be stopped!

  • Jonathan Gottlieb

    Ban Fracking everywhere possible. Hope Gov Corbett gets blown away in the next election. He’s a disgrace to Pennsylvania and the nation as all the Tea Partiers and their corporate masters.

  • Patrick Henderson

    It is ironic, but not surprising given their political affiliation, that Pennfuture chooses to condemn the Governor for a sensible proposal that will not result in additional surface activity, impacts or disturbances on state forest or park land, and calls his stewardship of natural resources short-sighted – yet Pennfuture says nothing publicly about the Governor’s recent ‘Enhance Penn’s Woods’ initiative also contained in the budget, which will invest $211 million over the next two years to upgrading and enhancing infrastructure at our state parks and forests. It is notable, too, that StateImpact makes no mention of the Enhance Penn’s Woods initiative, and failed to cover the the Governor’s announcement as well, either Saturday or as part of the budget. But it is not surprising, as Ms. Cusick is loathe to report anything which may remotely reflect well on the Administration. It is professional malpractice and inherently dishonest to, as StateImpact does here, carry a headline that is factually incorrect. The Governor did NOT propose to expand drilling in state parks and forests – period. But it is par for the course for a reporter that puts personal politics ahead of honest, fair, and unbiased blogging.

    Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive
    Office of the Governor

    • NorthernTier

      Rather than yet-again criticizing the messengers, how about explaining how “no-impact” development. would be accomplished. Also, what about the leased private land owners who would have to wait even longer for their land to be developed if the DCNR permits operators to expand their existing public land operations?

    • Tom Frost

      “their political affiliation”
      TF: Don’t worry, Mr. Henderson; the “their” part will be ending in April (the month of the registration-switching deadline for voting in the primary), when I end my lifelong registration as a Republican so that I can participate – along with many other ex-Republicans that I hear are joining me – in putting the sorry tenure of you HIJACKERS OF MY PARTY (who, if you were my neighbors here in Susquehanna County, you would have no doubt been the first to sign, for $5. an acre) on the ash heap of history. Enjoy your not-too-long-from-now time when “their” will mean just about everybody except you and Tom Corbett.

  • RickeyStardust

    Crimes against humanity . He should be executed !

  • Guest

    Corbett “Let’s keep pumping poison into the ground until we ruin drinking water around the planet. Industry shall prevail, you plebeians can drink piss.”

  • Brenda Baker


  • dfpa

    I’ll give Corbett credit for one thing, he blatantly sticks to his guns in being blindly loyal to those that helped put him into office. He’s paid off his debt to the gas industry and then some. Sadly, he’ll mortgage the natural heritage of all Pennsylvanians, present and future, to continue feathering their nest unless he’s stopped at one term. He needs to be gone, but he will have a campaign war chest the size of Fort Knox thanks to these very same gas conglomerates that will once again fill his coffers to the brim.

  • F Michael Addams

    Low impact frackin”…Kinda like the miracle of Kleen Coal..!

  • Rob Hamill

    The EPA has yet to find one instance of proper fracking polluting anything, and it has been done millions of times. The sloppiness in the past is quickly being corrected, as it is no good for the bottom line. You people ought to get down on your knees and give thanks for our bountiful resources.

    • Josh

      No, Rob, these professional activists will use natural gas to cook food, heat their homes, and power their electrical needs, and they will scream bloody murder about it as though someone else made them do it. They won’t thank anyone. They’ll take it all for granted and also enjoy being hypocrites. No one in the media will call them out. Charmed lives.

  • Gene Trout

    Once they poison our lakes mechanize our Parks,we still have to live here , Pa is none for its beauty is this a democracy or not? CAN We STOP this????

  • Trey Marien


  • Josh

    The anti-Corbett vitriol on this page would be expected, because he’s a REPUBLICAN. But the fact is that Democrat Ed Rendell was the one who opened up the state lands for massively damaging gas drilling. The testimony in the PEDF lawsuit is damning. Rendell raped Pennsylvania’s state forests. Corbett inherited those policies. But the environmental groups were mute. They grumbled but there was no outrage. What a bunch of partisan hypocrites.

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