For the past five years, Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests have been batted back and forth in a battle over whether drilling should be banned on the public lands. Thanks to an executive order that Gov. Tom Wolf signed on Thursday, the ban is now on again, as it should be.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell in 2010 banned drilling on 800,000 acres of the most environmentally sensitive areas, those that provide habitats for rare and endangered species, host fragile ecosystems or contain old-growth forests. The order affected only a portion of the state’s 2.2 million-acre forest system; another 700,000 already had been approved for drilling.
Four years later, former Gov. Tom Corbett revoked the ban, saying the land could be drilled as long as there was no long-term disturbance on the surface. Naturally, that set off a debate over what constituted a long term, and a court fight meant the $75 million worth of new leases that Mr. Corbett had hoped to tap never came to be.
With Mr. Wolf’s order, a reasonable boundary has been re-established between what is and what is not suitable land for drilling. His order doesn’t affect public land that already is subject to drilling, and it doesn’t mean Mr. Wolf favors a broader moratorium for other parts of Pennsylvania. Like the the Post-Gazette, the new governor believes there is a place for responsible drilling as long as it is environmentally safe and doesn’t pose risks for vulnerable woodlands.
The state does not need to gamble on the future of Penn’s Woods, the unique regions that were the genesis of the state named Pennsylvania.