Campaign aims to save state parks from drilling
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Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future will launch a campaign today aimed at getting Marcellus Shale gas development companies to voluntarily pledge to not drill in the state's parks.
The statewide environmental group said many of the state's most popular parks -- including Ohiopyle, Pymatuning, Goddard, Yellow Creek, Ricketts Glen and Cook Forest -- are at risk from Marcellus Shale drilling because the mineral rights underlying many parks are privately owned.
Drilling companies that own or have leased those privately owned shale gas deposits have the legal right to access them, but the campaign, titled "Don't drill through the heart of Pennsylvania," asks them to use widely employed horizontal drilling technology to tap into the gas deposits under the parks from wells located outside the parks.
"Those privately owned gas deposits can be developed without compromising the state's publicly-owned natural resources using the same technology that makes their recovery possible," said John Quigley, special adviser to PennFuture and a former secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
He said PennFuture is also calling on the state Legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection to develop stringent rules for permitting of Marcellus Shale wells around state parks, including a 300-foot buffer around the boundary of the parks, and requirements for a pre-development study and public hearing.
The pledge campaign is modeled after a West Virginia law that prohibits drilling within its state parks. About 50 percent of the parkland sits atop privately-owned mineral rights, including Marcellus Shale gas.
Approximately 3,000 wells have been drilled into the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, but none so far in any of the state's parks, even though about 80 percent of the mineral rights under those public parks are privately owned. A little more than half of those parks are located in what's been called the "Marcellus Fairway," the two-thirds of the state above the gas-rich middle Devonian formation.
"We've been monitoring the development of the Marcellus Shale gas industry and note that the industry is continuing to have an interest in public lands," Mr. Quigley said. "But this campaign is an opportunity for the companies to demonstrate that they understand the state and are concerned about its natural resources."
He said PennFuture is asking other environmental groups and individuals to join its campaign. It has also recently invited five of the state's largest drilling companies -- Shell, Chesapeake, EQT, Range Resources and Consol -- to take the pledge and is awaiting responses. Chesapeake, Range and Consol could not be reached for comment.
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THE MARCELLUS BOOM
First Published September 29, 2011 12:00 am