Environmentalists Blow Recent Rule Change out of Proportion

Reactions to the Corbett administration’s revoking of mandatory impact reports on state lands targeted for drilling fail to see the big picture. Comments from environmentalists imply that without an extra layer of state bureaucracy the drilling company is free to plunder and pillage without restraint.

“The answer is not to turn our state parks and forests over to drillers and hope for the best,” said PennFuture President Jan Jarrett.

In reality, drillers on state lands must abide by the most stringent regulations in the state. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has extensive requirements for all Marcellus Shale exploration, including zones where no surface impact or drilling may occur, strict requirements for well locations, spacing, construction and buffer zones. These, of course, are in addition to state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s regulations, which are among the strictest in the country.

Furthermore, the moratorium is still in place. Gov. Rendell’s drilling “moratorium” on state forest land was more of a gesture to anti-drilling activists because almost all the state forest land that could be leased has already been leased. According to DCNR, about 700,000 acres of state forest land both contains gas and is suitable for drilling—and after the last rounds of leasing 660,000 acres are already leased for gas production.

So even if Corbett lifts the moratorium, it is unlikely new drilling will take place in the near future. Robert Swift makes this point in today’s Times Tribune. The state land that is being leased is being adequately protected, and over two-thirds of our state land remains untouched by drilling.