Energy. Environment. Economy.

New poll finds Pennsylvanians favor shale drilling, but not on public lands

A drill rig rises above the trees in the Tioga State Forest.

Scott Detrow/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drill rig rises above the trees in the Tioga State Forest.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that a majority of Pennsylvania voters support the state’s Marcellus Shale boom. However, the poll found most of them oppose the idea of more drilling in the state’s parks and forests.

Fifty-eight percent of voters said they are in favor of natural gas development and 33 percent said they oppose it.

More from the Associated Press:

“Pennsylvanians are generally willing on drilling, but it depends on where, drawing the line at state parks and forest land,” said Tim Malloy with the Quinnipiac poll.

Well more than a third of voters — 39 percent — said they were less likely to vote for incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett this year because of an executive order last month that expanded the amount of drilling connected to state parks and forests. Pennsylvanians overall were against the policy, 57 percent to 36 percent. Thirteen percent said it made them more likely to support Corbett and nearly half said it would not affect them one way or the other.

In January, a Franklin and Marshall poll found 68 percent of participants opposed opening more state forest land to drilling, while 64 percent supported natural gas development.

Earlier this week, the state Commonwealth Court wrapped up a hearing on an effort to temporarily stop Corbett’s executive order from taking effect. A top official at the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told the court he advised the administration against new leasing in state forests.

Corbett’s executive order, issued last month, calls for a restrictive approach to drilling without “long-term surface disturbance” such as new well pads, pipelines, or access roads. It allows companies to extract gas horizontally from wells located on adjacent private land or in areas of state forests where leases already exist.

The administration says the plan will raise $75 million to plug a state budget gap.


  • na

    Repost from:
    DCNR told Corbett administration not to lease more forest land for drilling

    Does anyone know if this exec order will allow additional well pads, pipelines, roads to be developed on previously leased tracks of land? I know the pitch was for no surface disturbance in forest but I’m seeing info suggesting pads and clearing will be allowed in previously leased tracks (Pine Creek valley, Loyalsock, large area). I am also seeing what looks like new well pad construction in state forest north of Little Pine Creek State park and east of Cammal PA, near school house road. Via google maps.
    It’s also worth stressing: Governor Corbett’s lifting of the moratorium does not allow new surface leases to take place on state land. The only surface development will take place on privately held land adjacent to the forests, or in areas already under lease

    EID tells it like it is?

    • NorthernTier

      When I accessed the DCNR website for the link to their Fact Sheet, I found it had been replaced by a new version (within the past few days). Though no longer linked to, the original version has not been deleted from the website. Following are links to both versions, with short quotes.

      DCNR – “Non-Surface Disturbance Leasing” – Fact Sheet [new version]
      “On May 23, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed an executive order which prohibits leasing of DCNR lands for oil or natural gas development that would result in additional long-term surface disturbance of newly-leased lands. … The 2014 order will only allow gas to be extracted horizontally from deep beneath these lands through wells located on adjacent private lands or previously leased areas of the state forest.”

      DCNR – “Non-Surface Disturbance Leasing” – Fact Sheet [original]
      “Natural gas would be accessed through surface activity which occurs on private, adjacent lands or from well pad sites which already exist or are planned under pre-existing leases.”

      • NorthernTier

        Another scenario that needs clarification — What about split estates, where the DCNR owns the surface rights. but the subsurface rights are privately owned. Under the executive order, could the mineral rights owner apply for a lease to also drill horizontally under adjoining DCNR land? This may seem to be a stretch, but the O/G industry has proven itself adept at finding and exploiting loopholes in legislation/regulations.

        The state parks are particularly vulnerable because the “DCNR controls only about 20 percent of the subsurface rights under State Parks.” [Presentation to the DCNR Natural Gas Advisory Committee - October 9, 2013]

  • kenneth weir

    Tom Corporate is a swine just like the man he replaced, fast eddie Rendell. They both are feasting at the altar of the corporate masters

  • Fracked

    58% of Pennsylvanians favor drilling…but not in their backyard, frontyard or schoolyard. When the gas well pads and compressors are built 300 feet from a gas executive or a high ranking elected official I will feel a little less fracked.

  • Patrick Henderson

    To Northern Tier:

    Thanks for posing the question.

    Split estates where the Commonwealth owns the surface but not the subsurface are not governed at all by the Executive Order, because the Commonwealth has no authority to lease or authorize the lease of oil, gas or mineral rights that it does not own.

    State parks are not vulnerable under the Executive Order at all because no surface disturbance on the public lands proper will be permitted. In short, yes, as described below, EID tells it like it is.

    What the article above fails to include, while linking to an article headlined “a top official advised against new leasing”, is any context on why those comments were offered (ie was the timing of entering the market appropriate to get proper value). Indeed, the same official says that he is comfortable with the Governor’s plan. That statement and conclusion should have been included in the article above; absent that, it is intended to appear that a conflict between DCNR and the governor’s office exists, when one does not.

    Patrick Henderson
    Office of Governor Corbett

    • na

      Thanks Patrick,

      Just to be clear- under the order, there can be new well pads, infrastructure, land clearing, in tracks of land already leased by DCNR?

      Is there a publicly available map showing what sections of state forests have been leased? This is the most recent article I could find on the subject which states this info is not available.

      For example there are many existing well pads on DCNR lands with similar names in leased tracks of land:
      COP TRACT ###
      DCNR ###

      Is there a boundary map available showing where these tracks are located in the state forests?

    • NorthernTier

      Following is an example to better explain the meaning of my question.
      Example – A state park consisting of two adjoining parcels. Parcel A is wholly owned [1] by the DCNR and unleased. So, under the EO – assuming any other conditions are satisfied – it would be available for lease. The DCNR owns the Parcel B surface rights, but the subsurface rights are privately owned and leased to an O/G operator. So, the operator can develop Parcel B by obtaining the required permits from the DEP. Rephrased, my question is whether the operator would qualify to apply for a Parcel A lease authorized by the EO?
      [1] wholly owned = both surface and subsurface rights.

      I do have a second question. Is it correct that the EO does not prohibit seismic testing on the surface of DCNR land leased under its authority?

      The state parks are “vulnerable” by virtue of the 80% privately owned mineral rights – EO or no EO.

  • Maggie Henry

    58% favor drilling? Really? Exactly which 58% is that and who are the people they contact for polling? Never once have I ever been contacted nor do I know anyone who has been so to say the majority favor drilling isn’t reality! Did they ask people in evacuation zones if they favor fracking? Or people in communities like the Woodlands in Butler county where water has been impacted and there is an astonishingly high incidence of a exceedingly rare form of leukemia how they feel about fracking? How about northern counties where it has been polluting the environment for years? How about the folks in SW Pa who are dealing with environmental disasters from cryogenics plants? Or better yet folks dealing with real estate damages from frack quakes and those sueing the same company who is trying to steal property rights under the guise of forced pooling? All of the folks assembled when Allegheny county violated the rights granted in the constitution and sold off the airport and Deer Lakes park do not favor fracking so exactly who is this 58% ?

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