PEC: Premature To Lift Gas Leasing Moratorium Before A Thorough Public Discussion
The PA Environmental Council sent a letter to DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti Thursday saying it would be premature for DCNR and the Governor to proceed with the proposal to lease additional DCNR land for natural gas drilling until significant questions about the environmental impact of existing drilling on DCNR land is finished and the best management practices employed to limit those impacts in the leasing plan are discussed with the public and stakeholders.
PEC also said any revenue from additional leasing should remain in the Oil and Gas Fund for DCNR’s use and should not be used to balance the state budget as has been done since 2009.
The budget proposal Gov. Corbett announced Tuesday calls for lifting the moratorium on leasing additional DCNR land for natural gas development to generate $75 million more in revenue for DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund. The Governor’s Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said additional leasing would be near existing drilling sites and gas companies would not be allowed to construct new well pads.
Secretary Zogby said Gov. Corbett would be issuing a new Executive Order to replace the Executive Order Gov. Rendell issued in 2010 a few days before the gubernatorial election imposing a moratorium on leasing additional State Forest land. The Rendell Administration leased 137,000 acres of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling before the moratorium was put in place.
“We believe that it is premature for DCNR and the Governor to proceed with this proposal without substantive deliberation, and without allowing stakeholders to evaluate the impacts analysis being prepared by DCNR of current natural gas operations on state land,” said Davitt Woodwell, Executive Vice President of PEC. “We do not have a comprehensive understanding of impacts from current operations on state land, and have no assurance of which, if any, best management practices are being employed by operators on state land..”
Woodwell noted as a member of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, PEC agreed with its recommendations that future leasing would be done with no additional surface impacts to state lands.
“However, while there may be limited instances where leasing of subsurface rights to extend existing well operations located outside of state lands can accomplish minimal impacts to public resources, the decision to proceed should be made only after open and informed consideration,” Woodwell explained.
He said DCNR formed the Natural Gas Advisory Committee to provide advice and expertise to the agency on natural gas management on their lands and the proposal should have been examined by the Committee.
“Given all this, we ask that you suspend pursuance of the Executive Order until this deliberation can take place,” said Woodwell.
A copy of the letter is available online.
For more information, visit PEC’s Marcellus Shale webpage.
Budget HearingsNext week the General Assembly will begin public hearings on Gov. Corbett’s budget request. The hearing on DCNR’s budget will be held February 19 in the Senate and February 25 in the House.