The argument that waiting for an impact inspection for forested lands will hurt the local economy because those oil and gas workers will lose their jobs is a poor one. I would be interested in finding out how many of those workers are actually from PA or even the east coast? I would bet that most of them are from Texas, Wyoming, Colorado or Oklahoma. If we pause the drilling here for a year, so we can actually be prepared and knowledgeable about what we are doing to our natural resources, I’m guessing the world will keep on turning. I also think the amount of workers laid off, in the big scheme of this plot, would be insignificant compared to the devastation to our resources and the amount of jobs lost in the future by DCNR and the DEP because our state government and this industry is greedy and short sighted.
I am also rather tired of listening to the gas industry make claims that Pennsylvanians are not considering our economic losses. Maybe that’s because we are more concerned with clean water! If we do not have drinkable water or get severely sick from our polluted water, going to work each day and economic up-shoots will be insignificant. If you have cancer or tumors (both of which have been proven by the EPA to be results of this drilling technology) from drinking water polluted by hydraulic fracturing you probably don’t spend too much of what’s left of your life worrying about the economy. It’s an easy to use cover up of rhetoric talk that tends to show up in politics and corporate industry all to often.
By MARCIE SCHELLHAMMER
A petition signed by 2,000 people in favor of continuing oil and gas drilling on the Allegheny National Forest has been sent to President Barack Obama and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
The petition, distributed by the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association (POGAM) and the Allegheny Forest Alliance, urges intervention to lift a ban on oil and gas development by the U.S. Forest Service.
The ban came earlier this year after a settlement between the Forest Service and a group of environmentalists who were seeking to have environmental impact analysis done prior to any drilling on the forest.
The settlement is a deviation from prior management practices, which never required an analysis. The Forest Service has ordered a halt to new drilling until a forest-wide impact assessment can be prepared.
The oil interests say that delay will be devastating to the local economy, as at least a year will pass without drilling and local companies are having to lay-off workers.
On Thursday, Steve Rhoads, president of POGAM, explained the reason behind the petition.
“We wanted to demonstrate to the powers that be that the behavior of the Forest Service and the effects of that behavior is far reaching and very damaging,” Rhoads said, “not only to owners of minerals who are being stifled by the bureaucratic logjam this is creating, but the employees, families, and communities as well.
“The potential for layoffs is growing as the Forest Service shuts the industry down arbitrarily,” he said. “The economic ramifications are significant. We’re asking for some intercession on behalf of the communities to protect their economic interest and health.”
Nearly 2,000 citizens, and civic and business leaders from McKean, Elk, Warren and Forest counties signed the petition.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit is pending in federal court in which Minard Run Oil Co. of Bradford, along with POGAM, the Forest Alliance and Warren County, are awaiting a judge’s decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the settlement order.
“We expect a decision on the preliminary injunction at any time now,” Rhoads said. “We don’t know what that decision will be. We’re hopeful for a positive result.”
He said this petition has nothing to do with any action in federal court.
“The only way, outside of a court action, for this stop is if the Forest Service decides to stop or if someone above forces their hand. We don’t expect the Forest Service to back away from its policy. That’s why we’re in court,” he said. “They are shutting the industry down, period.”
The petition, on the other hand, is to bring attention to the suffering local oil industry at a time when the federal government is working on stimulating the economy and creating jobs.
“We want to bring attention to the issue at the highest level of governments,” Rhoads said.
“State records show that fewer than 50 wells, all of them permitted prior to the drilling ban imposed on January 1, have been drilled in the Allegheny National Forest during 2009. The Forest Service has prevented the drilling of between 200-300 wells that would have otherwise occurred,” Rhoads said. “These undrilled wells translate into private investment of nearly $100 million and jeopardize hundreds of good-paying jobs in the region. The action of the Forest Service amounts to a full-scale assault on the economic health of the families and communities living in and around the Allegheny National Forest.”
Harvey Golubock, president and chief operating officer of American Refining Group, explained the impact the ban is having on McKean County.
“It directly effects us and our ability to (purchase local crude),” he said. “The longer this moratorium stays in place the worse it’s going to be. The companies are going to have to lay off employees because the drilling is not going on.
“There has been essentially no drilling in the national forest since January,” Golubock said. He said about 20 to 25 percent of the crude used by ARG comes from the national forest.
He explained that locally, wells are shallow and most of the oil comes from them in the first 12 to 18 months. After that, the oil comes out much more slowly.
“If you don’t have drilling for a year, we don’t feel the brunt of the impact until 2010,” he said. Wells that have already been drilled will start to peter out, and there won’t be new ones to take their place.
“And we will see decline in production in 2010,” Golubock explained. “That’s not something that can be really made up unless we start refocus all our efforts on the crude supply in Ohio. That puts our dollars into Ohio instead of Pennsylvania.
“In 1997, 70 percent of our crude came from Ohio. We’ve been able to turn that around. Today it’s about two-thirds from Pennsylvania and one-third from Ohio,” he said. However, that may not be the case for long.
“This has a major impact and will have a major impact on the local economy,” Golubock said.