PA Land Trust Letter

Here is a letter I received from the PA Land Trust Folks. If anyone is motivated and wants to call or write there is some info in here to help you out with that.

Tell your state representatives and senators to vote against any budget deal that mandates leasing more State Forest land for drilling. Tell them to tell their leadership to keep leasing out of any budget deal. Tell them you want our State Forests to be responsibly managed for everyone. Tell them it is time to enact a tax on gas drilling to help offset the damages to natural resources and communities caused by gas operations.

Phone calls are the best way to contact your legislators and their staff; emails are okay. A call followed up by a quick email to reinforce your request is best! Go to http://www.legis.state.pa.us to find your state legislators. Use the box on the upper right corner of the page.

The proposed state budget deal is a gas corporation’s dream. It doesn’t include a severance tax on gas drilling even though every other major gas producing state has the tax. But it does open more State Forest acreage to gas drillers. This is wrong.

How could the General Assembly and Governor Rendell do things right? They could allow the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to study the impact of Marcellus gas drilling on previously leased land and evaluate potential future impacts. They could allow the agency to determine appropriate lands to lease and under what conditions based on principles of responsible management and science. They could allow the agency to conduct hearings for the public to review the agency’s findings and express their concerns.

Instead the General Assembly and the Governor seem to be saying, “hey, we need $100 million, $80 million, $200 million [or fill in the blank]. Let’s keep leasing publicly owned State Forest until we hit the target. Impacts? What impacts?”

BACKGROUND:

Without careful advance study and planning, we can’t know what additional drilling if any can occur on our publicly owned State Forest land without harming the forest’s environmental, economic and recreational values. We do know that massive leasing beyond the 660,000 acres already open for drilling would deeply constrain DCNR’s ability to manage the forest. It would threaten the forest’s wild and natural areas, old growth, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas as well as the recreational and other economic uses of the forest.

A massive amount of infrastructure would have to be developed to support drilling: clearing drill sites, developing roads and pipelines, settling ponds and treatment facilities. The fragmenting of wildlife habitat would be severe. It would seriously limit public access for recreation and have obvious impacts on forest aesthetics. The independent third party certification of the State Forest as sustainably managed likely would be lost. Water withdrawals for drilling and the handling of drilling waste would present potentially severe impacts on water quality and quantity. DCNR does not have adequate staffing now to monitor and manage existing drilling activity, let alone a massive expansion.

The Allegheny National Forest is seriously degraded and cannot be effectively managed because mineral rights are not controlled by the US Forest Service. Massive additional leasing threatens to create the same problems for our State Forests.

The General Assembly needs to exercise restraint in leasing our public lands for gas extraction. The impact of existing leases and potential impacts of additional leasing should be carefully evaluated before opening up more public land for drilling.

Check out http://landandwater.org and http://conserveland.org/features/GasLeasingNumbers for more information.


Andy Loza, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
717-230-8560

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