Energy. Environment. Economy.

Environmental groups rally against plan to expand drilling in state forests

Environmental groups object to Governor Corbett's plan to expand leasing of state park and forest land for gas drilling.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Environmental groups object to Governor Corbett's plan to expand leasing of state park and forest land for gas drilling.

A statewide coalition of environmental groups held a rally today opposing Governor Corbett’s proposal to expand leasing of state parks and forests for natural gas drilling.

They marched from the capitol rotunda to Corbett’s office to deliver a petition opposing the plan.

The rally was timed to coincide with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources appearing before the House Appropriations committee.

DCNR secretary Ellen Ferretti told lawmakers Corbett’s proposal will not allow for any new or additional surface impacts to public lands.

“Each and every [leasing] proposal will be evaluated to make sure it adheres to this directive,” she said.

Former Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, leased about 130,000 acres of state forest land before he instituted a moratorium on future leasing during his last year in office.

Governor Corbett says he plans to issue a new executive order, under which companies could not build new well pads on state land. Instead, they could access gas by drilling horizontally underground from private property that’s adjacent to public land, or add new wells to existing well pads on state land.

Although Corbett’s proposal could allow for more drill rigs, equipment, and truck traffic in state forests, Ferretti says she doesn’t view that as an additional surface disturbance.

“I know that’s out there– about the increased truck traffic, etcetera,” she said. “If a new well bore is permitted, that is not a new or additional surface disturbance. These are old leases that were already executed.”

Environmental groups argue the process of extracting more gas will inevitably create additional impacts.

“We’re always concerned about things that go awry,” says Karen Feridun of Berks Gas Truth.  “We’re concerned about things that happen with respect to blowouts– that just happened in Greene County. These pollutants don’t respect property lines.”

Rep. Seth Grove (R- York) called the idea of referring to truck traffic a surface disturbance “hogwash.”

“With that kind of argument, you come back and say, ‘a squirrel digs a hole and plants a nut, you’re affecting surface activity’,” he said. “To make those legal arguments is just inaccurate. I appreciate the governor’s stance to try to minimize impacts to our state forests.”



  • Steve Todd

    Hanger To Drillers and Corbett: Hands Off State ForestsLends Support To Today’s State Capitol Protest

    Feb. 25, 2014, Harrisburg, PA – John Hanger, Democratic candidate for Governor and co-author of the 2010 executive order stopping further gas drilling in state forests, praised environmental and conservation organizations for gathering in the Capitol today to protest Gov. Corbett’s plan to scrap the moratorium.

    “The moratorium on gas drilling in state forests is more needed today than it was even in 2010! Corbett must keep his hands and those of the gas drillers off Pennsylvania’s most precious natural wonders that are part of our state forests and wild areas,” Hanger said.

    “I salute the coalition of almost three dozen organizations led by the League of Conservations Voters to bring the message to Corbett’s doorstep that “no means no,” Hanger said. “They deserve our thanks and support.”

    Hanger, then Secretary of Environmental Protection, wrote the prohibition on drilling public lands along with Secretary of Natural Resources John Quigley in 2010. Corbett proposed to scrap it in his recent budget proposal.

    The rally of environmental and civic organizations protesting the Corbett proposal will gather in the Capitol Rotunda today at noon.

    Hanger alone among the Democratic candidates has authored and implemented a moratorium on drilling on public lands and has unique energy expertise that is one of the big differences between him and the other Democratic candidates. Hanger’s energy platform is at ; and his detailed, 20-point plan to enact world-class drilling standards and regulations is at

    Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania John Hanger is widely regarded as one of the most thoughtful and best informed progressive public policy experts in the state. Formerly a public-interest lawyer advocating on behalf of poor families, John is nationally recognized as a leading authority on clean energy development and environmental protection. He served both Governors Casey and Rendell in key positions: first for Bob Casey as Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission, where he successfully fought to cap electric rates to save Pennsylvania ratepayers millions; and for two years as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in the Rendell Administration. Throughout his career in public service, John has embodied the essence of his campaign slogan “Policy first, politics second.”

    Contact: Roger Cohen, (973) 632-4694,,

  • NorthernTier

    What about the possible negative impact on revenue from tourism and other public uses of DCNR land? Any study been done to see if there is a correlation between active gas development and attendance” Any opinion survey done of traditional park users?

  • kat17954

    To compare a squirrel burying a nut to industrial truck traffic in terms of surface disturbance is idiotic at best!! I think our “distinguished gentlemen” (choke) from York should take a ride on what used to be paved roads up in Lycoming, Sullivan and many other counties. You can hardly tell some were ever paved at all they are so bad. Stupid stupid man.

    • Maggie Henry

      Does not that moratorium include Grove’s district? What a fool!

  • Perryjeff

    Under Corbett’s plan, drillers could bring thousands of trucks into our state forests to drill each new well. These trucks will be carrying the chemicals to be used in fracking, as well as the fracking wastewater that will need to be hauled away for disposal. These trucks will cause air and noise pollution. They can spill the chemicals, or the fracking wastewater on state forest roads. the water pollution from this could get into our drinking water or kill fish and wildlife. How is that not a “surface disturbance”?
    Under Corbett’s plan, the drillers could set up their fracking operation directly adjacent to a state park. What would happen if a blowout / explosion like what just happened in Greene County happens adjacent to a crowded state park? The puny 300′ set back that Corbett wants as a maximum would guarantee a disaster to the public in the park, if things go awry. Is this how you want our state to manage our parks? Parks for the people, not the drillers
    Our legislators need to tell Corbett to shove his plan where the sun doesn’t shine….

  • InquisitiveLogic

    The thoughtless insanity to drill on public property. Shame on you Corbett!

  • Wanda Shirk

    Go John Hanger! I hope all of us who love our state forests and parks will unite behind the gubernatorial candidate who really gets it on environmental issues!

  • NorthernTier

    The DCNR seems to be defining “surface impact” as a single event, rather than an ongoing and cumulative process. Compare that with PennDOT’s secondary road Posting/Bonding regulations:
    “Posted and Bonded Roadway Program”
    From the “Frequently Asked Questions” section:
    “Unconventional Oil and Gas
    33) How does UOG drilling impact the roads and bridges?
    The gas extraction process includes four primary steps that impact the roadway system due to the need for extensive hauling of materials into and out of a drilling site on secondary roads that weren’t designed for the weight and volume. This causes roads to rapidly deteriorate.”

    Questions I’ve not seen addressed are [1] Would seismic testing of the newly leased land be permitted? and [2] For well sites outside DCNR boundaries, would the DCNR permit access via DCNR roads?

    • Maggie Henry

      And taxpayers support the destruction of the roads while drillers run off with Pa’s natural resources.

  • Bozz

    Yea, cuz a squirrel burying a nut releases massive amounts of methane, pollutes millions of gallons of fresh-water, creates seismic disturbances/earthquakes, decreases tourism, clears surface land permanently, and increases traffic emissions and noise pollution; oh, and of course it liquifies the nut for export to China so that the squirrel can take the profits out of state/country and deposit it in an off-shore LLC tax-haven… what a repulsive capitalist tool.

  • Maggie Henry

    I find it difficult to believe that Seth Grove could make such a stupid remark! Like there is any comparison WHATSOEVER between natural inhabitants of forests and shale well drilling that is destroying millions of acres of Pa. I hope York voters are smart enough not to return him to Harrisburg unless they like being embarrassed by his stupid remarks. Save Pa State parks!

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