Gov. Tom Wolf to reinstate moratorium on drilling in parks, forests
January 28, 2015 8:54 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf signs two executive orders at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Wolf plans to announce tomorrow that he will reinstate a moratorium on leasing new oil and gas wells in the state’s forests and parks, thus fulfilling a campaign pledge.
Mr. Wolf will sign the executive order establishing the moratorium at an outdoor ceremony in Benjamin Rush State Park, in Philadelphia, weather permitting.
In October 2010, Gov. Ed Rendell established a moratorium on gas well leasing in state forests, and Gov. Tom Corbett left that moratorium in place through May of last year, when he replaced it with a policy that restricted development within state parks and forests but allowed gas below parks and forests to be tapped by wells drilled horizontally from adjacent properties.
In February 2011, Mr. Corbett repealed a 4-month-old policy adopted by the Rendell administration, designed to minimize the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas well drilling in Pennsylvania's parks.
Pennsylvania has 2.1 million acres of state forest, and has issued oil and gas leases for about 700,000 acres -- .more than 130,000 acres of that for Marcellus Shale deep wells.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has approved more than 1,000 Marcellus Shale gas wells on forest lands, and about 600 of those wells have been drilled on 230 wellpads. But there is room on existing leases for as many as 6,000. If all of those wells are drilled and developed, approximately 25,000 forested acres would be converted for roads, pipeline right of ways and wellpads.
In 2012, John Quigley, then a consultant hired by the statewide environmental organization PennFuture, and the new governor’s pick to head the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the state can’t lease more forest acreage without jeopardizing its certification as a sustainably managed forest.
The state’s forests have been certified as sustainably managed for 16 years in a row, the longest steak in the nation.
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