Governor Corbett is giving more details about his proposal to expand leasing of state parks and forests for natural gas drilling.
Mary Wilson: One of the proposals within the budget would count on $75 million from expanding natural gas extraction underneath state parks and forests. I wanted to ask you to flesh this out of us. What we know so far is that the proposal would say that companies can’t build new well pads on state lands, but they could drill sideways, from well pads already in place.
Corbett: Yes, on lands that are private lands.
Mary Wilson: Ok, so only on private lands?
Corbett: I don’t know if it’s only, because we may have some place where we already leased it to them. It’s kind of hard. You’d have to have a 3-D dimension map here.
Let’s start with private lands. Let’s say there’s a state park somewhere in Pennsylvania. Private lands surround that state park. If they’re already drilling, they have access to that because they’ve signed leases with the homeowner. They drill down.
Right now, they aren’t going under the state park. This would permit them to go under the state park. Pay us for what they’re getting out from under the state park. With no surface disturbance to the state park. Nobody would see anything that they aren’t already seeing.
If you’re standing on the edge of the state park, you might be able to see the drill rig working, or after the drills are done, you might be able to see the capped well.
Mary Wilson: If a company already has a well pad in a state forest, because they got that well pad before the moratorium came down, could they, number one—lease more public land mineral rights, under your new proposed new executive order? And number two—could they add new gas wells to that pad?
Corbett: Boy Mary, you just complicated that answer. The first part of that is, I think, if they’re already on the land, they probably have the area all around that anyhow. Because that’s how it would have been set up in the prior administration.
Are we saying you can come in and do additional in other areas? No. We’re not going to let them come in at this point. We haven’t lifted that moratorium, where they can bring the rigs in to touch that other area.
Matt Paul: We do know that governor Rendell, the previous administration, signed this lease moratorium via executive order back in 2010, actually right before you were elected to office. It is as simple as signing another executive order to reverse the moratorium to allow this non-impact drilling, as you described?
Corbett: I believe so yeah, right.
Matt Paul: The Sierra Club did say in a statement about this, that we should be protecting state parks and forests from future development and not exploiting them. Based on your description of how this would work to raise $75 million how would you respond to a statement like that?
Corbett: That’s exactly what we’re doing. Nobody’s going to see the difference. Now, I’m not going to agree with them, that by going on and getting gas out, if we would ever open up more drilling from the surface on the state park that that’s exploiting them.
But there is a huge source of natural gas underneath the state parks, that is the state’s. I don’t believe in just leaving it there. I don’t have a timetable as to when we should get it. But it can be done. It can be done safely. And I think many people have not had the opportunity to go see the whole process. Matt, I think you’ve been to one drill site, haven’t you?
Matt Paul: Not yet, no.
Corbett: Oh my goodness, you guys gotta go. It’s not the derricks of west Texas. Seven years ago everybody thought it was going to look like west Texas, where there’s wooden derricks everywhere. These drills are on there for maybe three or six months, and then they go away. What’s left behind—and they had it at the Farm Show—is this well cap. It’s very unobtrusive. Probably painted green in most cases, with a fence around it, and it extracts the gas.
Matt Paul: Let’s talk about a slightly less controversial aspect of the budget that relates to state parks and forests. Last week at the Great American Outdoors show, you announced a two-year, 200 project, $200 million program called Enhance Penn’s Woods. What’s the vision you have there?
Corbett: Receiving some of the funds we have—to do a lot of work with [the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources] for repairing parks, repairing roads in parks. Making the parks more amenable to the people to come and enjoy them.