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Ohio Utica Shale

Corbett allows drilling under Pennsylvania parks, forests

By Bob Downing Published: May 24, 2014

From the Associated Press on Friday:

By PETER JACKSON, Associated Press

Posted: |

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett issued an executive order Friday that allows drillers to extract natural gas from rock buried deep below Pennsylvania’s state forests and parks, while barring drilling-related construction that would disturb the surface of the nearly 2.5 million acres of public lands.

 The order authorizes the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to negotiate leases for the gas extraction through horizontal wells drilled from adjacent, privately owned lands or from areas leased for drilling in the state forests by previous administrations.

 Corbett announced that he planned to issue the order when he unveiled his 2014-15 state budget plan in February. It rescinded a 2010 order barring any new leases on public lands.

The initial leases are expected to generate $75 million for this year’s budget. The state plans to seek $3,000 per acre in future rents as well as an 18 percent royalty on the sale of the gas, said Patrick Henderson, a senior aide to the Republican governor.

 “We announced this three months in advance,” he said.

 Henderson said the process of issuing the new leases will start with an exploration company making a proposal to the department, which would conduct case-by-case reviews before entering into an agreement. Permits from the Department of Environmental Protection also are required before any underground drilling could occur under public lands.

 Environmentalists and other critics expressed concern and strong opposition.

 David Masur, director of PennEnvironment, said the order sets “a horrible precedent.”

 “We have made it so easy to drill for natural gas on private land,” Masur said. “It begs the question — is any place off-limits?”

 State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford, one of the Legislature’s leading environmentalists, expressed disappointment at the move.

 State Rep. Greg Vitali today expressed disappointment with Gov. Tom Corbett’s decision to permit additional leasing of mineral rights in state parks and forests for natural gas drilling.

 Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, opposes the proposal because drilling is a high-impact industrial activity, and an expansion in any form will have a negative impact on state parks and forests.

 “While the Corbett administration will claim this so-called ‘zero surface disturbance’ plan will not harm our state parks and forests, the damage has been done and will continue to be done as horizontal drilling occurs,” Vitali said. “This drilling will be done under fragile ecosystems and habitats for rare and endangered species. We need to protect this land for future generations.

 “This is something the public does not support and is something Governor Corbett’s own DCNR acknowledges as negative,” Vitali said.

 John Hanger, who as state environmental protection secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell helped write the 2010 order, dismissed the order as a “one-time budget gimmick.”

 “Corbett just does not understand that we cannot drill our way to prosperity, and we cannot drill our way to a balanced budget,” said Hanger, who sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination but dropped out of the race before last Tuesday’s primary.

 Luzerne County Sen. John Yudichak, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said he has introduced legislation to require the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to hold at least one public hearing before any of the new leases is executed.

 Said PennFuture’s president Cindy Dunn: “We need to get the public voice in the room on this.”



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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.