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Legislators seeking an extra $20 million from forest leasing

A gas well pad in the Tiadaghton State Forest.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A gas well pad in the Tiadaghton State Forest.

State legislators are looking to expand gas leasing of public parks and forests to raise more revenue in an effort close this year’s budget gap.
Lawmakers are set to vote on a $29.1 billion spending plan today that anticipates $95 million in revenue from leasing more public land to drillers– that’s $20 million more than Governor Corbett proposed in his executive budget.
Corbett was seeking to lease about 25,000 acres. Under the latest version of the budget, the total may exceed 31,000 acres.
In May Corbett issued an executive order which bars companies from creating new surface disturbances. It instead allows drillers to extract gas horizontally from wells located on adjacent private land or in areas of state forests where leases already exist.
It’s not clear whether the additional money will come from leasing more land or from a higher per-acre price. Right now, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is seeking $3,000 per acre in upfront bonus payments and an 18 percent royalty once gas production begins.
A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month shows Pennsylvanians largely support natural gas extraction, but most oppose the notion of expanding leasing in public parks and forests.
Although legislators from both parties have supported various versions of a gas severance tax, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports today that it appears to no longer be on the table.

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