Update on PA Roads Effected by Gas Drilling from DCNR

From the DCNR website:

In recent years there has been a marked increase in natural gas activity in state forests in north central Pennsylvania . Visitor experiences and road usage can be impacted by this activity.

Loyalsock State Forest

Bodine Mountain Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected . Traffic control will be established at Grays Run Road intersection. Expect 10-15 minute delays during periods of heavy truck traffic.

Brown Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Traffic control will be established at Hagerman Run and Long Run Road intersections. Traffic is one way from Hagerman Run Road to Long Run Road . Outgoing truck traffic may be heavy.

Grays Run Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Two way traffic. Drive with caution.

Hagerman Run Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Hagerman Run Road is one way from Rte. 14 to Newman Fields and the intersection with Browns Road. Parking on Hagerman Run Road is extremely limited.

Long Run Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Long Run Road is open to public travel and must be used to exit the area. Traffic is one way from Browns Road to Grays Run Road. Parking along Long Run Road is limited.

Loyalsock State Forest has sustained severe damage to its road system due to flooding from Hurricane Lee. All roads except Pleasant Stream Road , lower Shanerburg Road, Walker Road, Dry Run Road and lower Rock Run Road ( Sullivan County ) are now passable, but visitors must travel with caution. Visitors should contact the Resource Management Center for updates before traveling at 570-946-4049 or email at fd20@state.pa.us.

Rock Run Road in Sullivan County is closed in the vicinity of CCC Camp 95. The iron bridge crossing the Loyalsock Creek is closed to vehicles. Pedestrians may continue to cross. The bridge was damaged by flooding during Hurricane Irene. View map here.

High Knob Road is accessible only from Worlds End Road . Dry Run Road from Rte. 87 to High Knob Road is closed due to severe flood damage. There is no estimated date of opening.
Moshannon State Forest

Four Mile Road: Open to the public but heavy truck traffic should be expected due to gas development. Drivers should be aware of increased height of road berms and soft road shoulders.

McGeorge and Lower McGeorge Roads: Open to the public but heavy truck traffic should be expected. Pipeline construction may create short delays.

Knobs Road: Expect long delays due to pipeline construction. The road surface may be impassable at active construction zones.

Caledonia Pike: Long delays are possible due to pipeline construction. The road surface may be impassable at active construction zones. Construction zones are continually changing and drivers should be vigilant.

Billote Road: Open to the public but it is the main access road for construction associated with the Caledonia Pike. Truck traffic may be heavy at times and drivers should remain vigilant.

Merrill Road: Open to the public but truck traffic may be heavy at times.

Ardell Road: Open to the public but truck traffic may be heavy at times.

Claymine Road: Bridge is closed for bridge replacement near Six Mile Road. There is no through traffic. Access to most of the road is possible from Strawband Beaver or Shirks Road from the south and east.

Little Medix Road : Closed for bridge work. There is no through traffic.

Sproul State Forest

Beech Creek and Shoemaker Roads: Increased traffic due to gas development is to be expected. There are no travel restrictions at this time.

Ritchie Road: Will be impacted due to a natural gas pipeline under construction from Hyner Mountain Road to Old View Road . Expect heavy truck traffic.

Pats Ridge Road: Will have a guard station for natural gas activity just beyond the power line corridor. The last quarter mile of this road is closed to public travel.

Benson Road: Will be impacted by the construction of a new entrance from Rte. 44. Expect heavy gas truck traffic.

Dry Run Road: Will be impacted by gas development. Expect heavy truck traffic.

Carrier Road: Will be impacted by gas development from Haneyville to Ponderosa. Expect heavy gas truck traffic.

Route 144: From State Game Lands 100 to Allen Dam road heavy gas truck traffic should be expected.

 Susquehannock State Forest

Card Creek Road: Open to public travel but be aware of ongoing natural gas activity. Expect heavy trucks and other gas related traffic. Several pull offs have been installed along the road to aid in passing oncoming vehicles.

Big Fill Haul Road : This gated road is currently being impacted by natural gas activity. The road can still be used for walk in access for hunters and other recreational users as it has traditionally. Parking is still available in the area between Rte. 6 and the gate. Be alert for heavy truck and other gas related traffic.

Tiadaghton State Forest

Narrow Gauge Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Francis Camp Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Lebo Vista Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Browns Run Road : Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Sinking Springs Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Bull Run Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Big Springs Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Limbaugh Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Parker Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Ramsey Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Okome Road: Heavy gas activity is to be expected. Drive with caution.

Armstrong Road on Bald Eagle Mountain east of South Williamsport  and U.S. Route 15 has been closed due to storm damage that has rendered the roadway impassable.

Tioga  State Forest

Mill Run Road in Elk Township will be closed from November 19 to December 11 from the intersection of Mill Run and Elk Run south to the top of Cedar Mountain (approximately 2 miles). Visitors wishing to use the area can access Mill Run Road from Thompson Hollow Road.

Visitors should use caution when using the Old Arnot Drivable Trail Road (also known as the Walnut Street Extension) which is located north of Arnot ( Bloss Township ) due to heavy truck traffic associated with natural gas development. Users should expect a traffic control point stop and controlled one way traffic flow with short time delays.

Armenia Mountain area drivers should use caution on River Road , Fellows Creek Road, Hemlock Road and Ridge Road due to heavy truck traffic associated with natural gas development.

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Corbett names pick for Conservation and Natural Resources

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

By Laura Olson and Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett announced his pick for one of two remaining cabinet posts this afternoon, selecting Richard J. Allan to head the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Mr. Allan, 57, has spent his career working in scrap recycling. His family operates Allan Industries, a metal recycling facility, in Wilkes-Barre, and he has run his own energy consulting firm since 2005. The Cumberland County resident also is an executive director for the PA Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, and serves on the board of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. He earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences and biology from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre.

The conservation agency has gained attention for its oversight of the growing number of Marcellus Shale gas wells being drilled on state forestland. Cuts in DCNR funding in recent budgets have shrunk the department’s resources for drilling oversight, state park operations and forest management.

“Richard Allan is a proven leader and commands a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental and energy issues,” said Mr. Corbett in a news release. “I am confident that his abilities and background will be a tremendous benefit to DCNR, especially during this critical time in the agency’s history.”

Mr. Allan is the nephew of Pat Solano, former Luzerne County Republican chairman and a power broker in the state’s northeastern GOP politics. His wife, Patricia, was recently named policy director for the Department of Environmental Protection. He contributed $2,150 to Mr. Corbett during the last campaign cycle, according to the Department of State’s campaign finance database. He also was a member of Mr. Corbett’s transition team for energy and environmental issues.

The department has been run by Acting Secretary Cindy Dunn, formerly a deputy secretary for the agency, since the Corbett administration took over in January. The remaining department without an announced secretary is Labor and Industry. Mr. Corbett said earlier this month that he had made offers to candidates for both of the unfilled positions.

Below are comments from Anne with the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA). Definitely some things to think about and be concerned with.

COMMENTS:

I have highlighted parts of the above text in bold for emphasis.

Mr. Allan brings to the post of head of PA’s Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) an unusual background. Only time will tell whether one whose career has been in scrap recycling understands the depth and breadth of environmental issues facing Pennsylvania – particularly issues regarding deep shale natural gas extraction, processing and transmission.

Mr. Allan would be wise to listen carefully to DCNR’s experienced staffers, particularly its scientists and attorneys, whose training and daily work experience in environmental areas is more recent than Mr. Allan’s bachelors degree.

Besides the issue of adequate background for an understanding of PA’s environmental complexities, there are some other areas of potential concern. There’s the obvious one of whether campaign contributions, family and political connections fostered a political appointment. And, there are questions about Mr. Allan’s status within Allan Industries, including whether he continues to profit from this corporation and whether its activities are regulated by either DCNR, which he will head or PA DEP, where his wife holds a key position.

More important, however, is how this appointment may affect the relationships among regulatory agencies. When considering the long term and critically important connection that DCNR has had with PA’s Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), some may question the appropriateness of having DCNR’s head coming from the same household as PA DEP’s Policy Director. Both agencies have working relationships in such crucial areas as permit reviews. With budget cuts and mandates for expedited permit reviews coming from the new Governor, one can only hope that concerns of potential conflicts of interest will not materialize and DCNR’s role will not be further marginalized than it has been to date from its severe budget cuts.

Anne

Marcellus Shale and Other News from PA Enviromental Digest

Lots of info from the RDA in this entry.
There are a number of articles about Marcellus Shale drilling in this week’s PA Environment Digest:

http://www.paenvironmentdigest.com/newsletter/default.asp?NewsletterID=682

(1) See especially this about DCNR’s latest leasings. It was announced at the Trout Unlimited meeting in Williamsport this week that PA now has one third of its state forests under lease for gas drilling.
(2) Note also additional cuts to state agencies that are critical to monitoring the gas industries activities and for oversight of state forests: http://www.paenvironmentdigest.com/newsletter/default.asp?NewsletterArticleID=14570&SubjectID=
(3) Also seethe note about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission shutting down operations in Tioga County by Texas-based driller, Novus Operating, LLC.

NCRO Weekly Report

NORTHCENTRAL REGIONAL OFFICE-WILLIAMSPORT

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 9-13, 2009

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ACTION

 

Nothing new to report

 

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ATTENTION

 

Nothing new to report

 

Management and Productivity

 

Nothing new to report

Recovery Activities

 

Nothing new to report

 

What’s Hot/Major Actions

Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, Oregon Township, Wayne County: Chesapeake Appalachia LLC submitted partial sample results to the Oil and Gas program on Nov. 4 detailing operations at the Robson well pad.  NERO Environmental Cleanup program staff met on-site with Chesapeake on Nov. 5 to discuss further sampling requirements and site characterization needs.  The rock material that was salvaged from the pad as part of the required restoration process will remain on the property until it is determined that there are not any impacts associated with the material.  NERO Environmental Cleanup staff is providing guidance on the proper administrative procedures to achieve Act 2 compliance.  Oil and Gas program staff sent Chesapeake a notice of violation letter for the release.  (John Ryder 570-327-0533)

Penns Valley School District Biomass Project, Spring Mills, Centre County: On Nov. 10, OETD Manager Dave Shimmel and Air Quality Permit Chief Muhammad Zaman met with the Penns Valley School District facilities director and its consultant, Blazosky Associates, to discuss the requirements for submitting a competent Air Quality plan approval application.  The meeting was arranged to ensure that Penns Valley will not have more delays in its application process.  The Penns Valley project is for the construction of a biomass (wood chip) boiler that will be used to heat three buildings on the school district campus.  It also includes constructing a new power plant to house the wood chip fired boiler.  About 84,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil will be eliminated at the high school and 348,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will be eliminated to heat the elementary school. This will save more than $200,000 per year for the school district at current energy rates.  (Dave Shimmel, 570-327-3568)

Tennessee Gas Pipeline, Potter, Tioga, Bradford, Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike Counties: On Nov. 9, the Watershed Management Program accepted an NPDES/Chapter 102 permit application and a Chapter 105/Water Obstruction and Encroachment permit application for Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s proposed 300 Line expansion project.  The NCRO will take the lead on these reviews and coordinate with the respective county conservation district offices, NERO and the Army Corps of Engineers, who will be reviewing its own Nationwide Permit application for this project.  The applications did have some administrative deficiencies and the applicant was notified of these.  The applications will be assigned so technical reviews can begin.  (John Twardowski 570-321-6523)

Bionol Clearfield LLC, Clearfield Borough, Clearfield County: The Environmental Cleanup program received progress reports this week from the certified installer and inspector on this large aboveground storage tank installation project.  Bionol, its engineering firm, Fagan Engineering, and tank installer, Brown Tank, were cited by DEP on Oct. 8 when it was determined that 12 regulated tanks had been installed at the facility without using a Pennsylvania certified tank installer.  Bionol has since retained the services of the appropriately certified individuals who report satisfactory progress.  Hydrostatic testing of the tanks, the final step in the installation process, is scheduled to begin the end of this month.  (Steve Webster 570-327-3657)

Waste Vehicle Inspections, Wayne Township Landfill, Clinton County: On Nov. 4-5, Waste Management program staff, along with the Pa. State Police, conducted a waste vehicle operational and safety inspection at the Wayne Township landfill.  There were 108 vehicles inspected by DEP staff during the two day event, with 19 violations discovered on 12 vehicles. There were five violations for not having proper signs, three violations for not having a daily operational log, three violations for leaking loads, three violations for not having a PPC plan, two violations for not having the load properly enclosed, one violation for not having a fire extinguisher, one violation for being overweight, and one violation for not having safety/spill equipment. Ten field notice of violations and two written warnings were issued. The assessments for the violations will range from $100 to $1,500 per violation.  (James Greene 570-327-0536)

Potential Problems/Potential Major Actions

 

Emergency Response, Lawrence Township, Clearfield County: On Nov. 10, DEP Emergency Response Team member Jim Green responded to a truck accident that closed Interstate 80 westbound in Lawrence Township.  The truck was hauling 20 drums of hydroxy xyethylacrylate, an inhalation hazard, and 10 drums of Diethylaniline, an inhalation/corrosive hazard.  Green worked with Clearfield County Emergency Management Agency and Eagle Towing and Recovery.  They determined that the drums had not leaked and the only release was diesel fuel.  The load was transferred, contaminated soil excavated, and the road re-opened.  The incident was referred to the Environmental Cleanup program for follow-up.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Emergency Response, Mansfield Borough, Tioga County: On Nov. 10, DEP staff investigated a tank truck accident that closed Route 15 just north of Mansfield.  The tank truck was reported to be transporting fracking fluids for the gas well industry.  DEP staff determined that the truck was empty and the only environmental damage was lube oil from the tractor.  The incident was referred to the Environmental Cleanup program for follow-up.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

 

Good News/Major Accomplishments

 

Pickelner Fuel Company Inc., City of Lock Haven, Clinton County: On Nov. 3, the Environmental Cleanup program finalized a $15,000 civil penalty with Pickelner Fuel Co. Inc. to settle violations of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act.  The penalty was issued because the facility had failed to conduct tank or piping leak detection for 12 consecutive months for the facility’s five underground storage tanks.  This is the third time these violations have occurred at this facility.  (Steve Webster 570-327-3657)

 

Resilite Sports Products, Upper Augusta Township, Northumberland County: On Nov. 6, the Environmental Cleanup program acknowledged receipt of a Remedial Action Completion Report that documents the company’s efforts in response to the 1986 discovery of a release of methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and acetone.  Resilite has operated at this location for nearly 50 years manufacturing and refurbishing athletic mats.  The release occurred from underground piping associated with two above ground tanks, a leaking underground tank and distribution system, and spills from the filling of the tanks.  Between September 1987 and December 1988, a groundwater containment/recovery system was installed and operated until June 2006.  Quarterly sampling of the groundwater since deactivation of the treatment system has shown all contaminants of concern to be well below the residential Statewide Health Standards.  Resilite conducted the cleanup effort voluntarily and chose not to participate in the Act 2 program.  (Larry Newcomer 570-327-3418)

 

Outreach/Upcoming Events

 

Water and Wastewater Energy Training for Decision-Makers, University Park, Centre County: OETD Manager Dave Shimmel joined several Local Development District (LDD) representatives and two persons from Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences on a teleconference Nov. 10 to continue program development on a 90-minute energy training module for water and wastewater treatment plant board members, supervisors and others responsible for making decisions on energy efficiency in their operations. NWRO and NCRO have been training operators through a partnership with the Pa. Rural Water Association in a day long workshop developed by NWRO OETD.  This is an extension of that effort with the intent to use a multiple approach to reach those treatment plant individuals who decide whether capital expenditures will be made.  The workshop will be taped at Penn State studios to ensure a high quality video. It will be located on Penn State servers to provide fast streaming capabilities as well.  There will be DVDs of the video mailed as well.  The plan is to also offer the workshop on a live basis with presenters traveling to various LDD locations to make evening presentations. Conference call attendees included SEDA-COG, Northeast Pa. Alliance and Southern Alleghenies.  (Dave Shimmel 570-327-3568)

Act 2

Pecha Trucking Act 2 Site, Pine Township, Clearfield County: On Nov. 9, the Environmental Cleanup program approved an Act 2 Final Report for the Pecha Trucking accident involving a release of 50 to 80 gallons of diesel fuel from a tractor trailer that occurred on Aug. 1.  The fuel was discharged to the roadway and soil along Interstate 80. Eagle Towing and Recovery excavated about 50 tons of contaminated soil and sent the soil to a landfill.  Post-excavation soil sample results indicated that the diesel fuel compounds of concern were below DEP’s Statewide Health Standards for a residential setting. Taylor GeoServices completed the reporting requirements under Act 2.  This site received a relief of liability for soil under the Statewide Health Standard.  (Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Former Penn Natural Gas Holder/Regulator Station Act 2 Site, Muncy Borough, Lycoming County: On Nov. 2, a contractor for UGI/Penn Natural Gas conducted remediation activities at a former natural gas holder/regulator station located in Muncy Borough.  The site is one of six included in a multi-site agreement between DEP and UGI/Penn Natural Gas  An NIR for remediation to a Statewide Health Standard for lead in soil was submitted on Oct. 31, 2007.  During site characterization that year, a 30 foot by 10 foot area of lead-contaminated soil was discovered where an aboveground storage tank had been located.  The contamination is believed to be the result of lead based paint; although the area contained fill that included cinders, coal ash and concrete, which may have been the source of lead.  Remediation consisted of excavating 52 tons of soil, backfilling with clean soil, and re-grading of the site.  Post-excavation samples confirmed that the soil left in place contains no lead above Act 2 Statewide Health Standards. (Larry Newcomer 570-327-3418)

NPDES Majors Backlog Status

 

Number of Overdue Permits-0

Number of Permits Issued This Week-0

Number of Permits Newly Expired This Week-0

(Chad Miller 570-327-3639)

 

Items for the DEP Planning Calendar

 

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL Public Meeting

Nov. 18 at 5 p.m.

Genetti Hotel–Williamsport

Upper Middle Susquehanna River Water Resources Committee Public Meeting

Nov. 19 at 1 p.m.

NCRO

 

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL Public Meeting

Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

Toftrees Resort and Conference Center

(Daniel Spadoni 570-327-359)

 

Map of state land to be leased outside Wellsboro

Here is the link to the page on DCNR’s website that shows the tracks of state forest land, outside Wellsboro, PA, they intend to lease to the gas industry. It seems odd that they are only leasing the single track of land near the Asaph?

Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling

Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will lease 31,967 acres of state forest land for deep gas well drilling, an amount that could meet a legislative mandate to raise $60 million from the sale of such leases in the 2009-10 budget year.

Department Secretary John Quigley said yesterday that offering leases on the forest land balances the state’s environmental and fiscal obligations.

“We chose these tracts of land after extensive environmental reviews to protect the health of the forest now and in the future, to allow for gas and timber extraction and public recreation, and to keep ecosystems intact that support a diversity of wildlife and plants,” Mr. Quigley said.

The six tracts proposed for leasing are located in the Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock and Tioga state forests in Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties.

The leases require a minimum bid of $2,000 an acre and royalties of 18 percent. If the state gets $2,000 bids on all the offered acreage, it would raise almost $64 million.

State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, who pushed for the sale of leases as chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said she is pleased the department moved quickly to implement an important part of the budget and is hopeful the offering will be successful.

Ms. White, in a statement released by her spokesman, also noted that responsible development of the Marcellus shale natural gas reserves was critical to avoiding a personal income tax increase as part of the recently passed budget.

According to state officials, the department has held 73 lease sales since 1947. The last, in 2008, brought in $190 million for 74,000 acres. But gas and lease prices have declined since then, and last spring the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council recommended that consideration of all new state forest land leases for drilling be put on hold.

Chris Novak, a DCNR spokeswoman, said a couple of recent lease agreements with large groups of private landowners in Susquehanna and Bradford counties indicates that gas drilling companies will still pay premium prices for desirable acreage.

In September, Fortuna Energy Inc. agreed to lease about 30,000 acres from a coalition of 600 property owners for $5,500 an acre. And Hess Corp. agreed to pay $3,500 an acre to another landowner coalition for drilling rights on 11,400 acres.

It’s been estimated that the Marcellus shale beds, 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep below three-quarters of Pennsylvania, could hold as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth as much as $1 trillion.

According to the DCNR, there are about 660,000 acres of state forest land under lease for gas production and 750 wells in production. If the just-proposed leases are successfully bid, the leased total would rise to 692,000 acres, about one-third of the 2.1 million acres of state forest.

Pre-qualified bidders may submit bids until 2 p.m., Jan. 12, at which time they will be opened publicly. The department said leases will be awarded based on the amount of the first year’s land rental. The primary lease term is 10 years and a lease covers annual land rental amounts and possible royalties.

For more information about state forests and gas leasing, visit the DCNR Web site at www.dcnr.state.pa.us or call 717-772-9101.

Tom Barnes contributed. Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

We’re All Voting for No-Sylvania if We Remain Silent

A friend sent me this article this morning. I liked it and even though a lot of what makes people agree with one side or the other comes from opinions as to what is best for the state of PA…..there are too many legislators who can only see a resource in dollar signs. Yesterday I called my state representatives, Scarnati and Baker, to let both of them know that I was supportive of a severance tax and wanted the money from that tax to be put into a budget where the majority of those funds would be distributed amongst the agencies that care for our natural resources. DCNR, The Fish and Game Commission and other organizations that act as stewards for our forests and streams. I spoke to each representative’s  secretary and neither were very helpful. Both made a note of my concern but with an air of unimportance and Matt baker’s secretary tried to tell me that they would not be voting on any such bill that might make amendments to a House bill that would distribute money in the way I have described above, but there is one and I’m not the only “lunatic tree hugger” that knows about it.
Our legislators are doing us a huge dis-service by not listening to our voices and opinions and they’re intent seems to be to sell out the PA Wilds to the gas and oil industry to make a quick buck. There are a few folks in politics doing their best to change this tide but they may not be enough. They are making an effort to fight for all of us. To keep our rights of land and tax money as ours, the people of Pennsylvania, and we should do all we can to help them out by calling or writing to our local representative, Matt Baker, and make sure he understands that we care about our land and our water. Make sure he knows that we know what’s going on and we do have an opinion and if he wants to actually represent the people in his district, as his title proclaims, then he needs to listen and think and do his job and not just vote with the flow when he gets to Harrisburg.
By Jan Jarrett (President and CEO Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
Published: September 30, 2009

If the state budget negotiators have their way, the core of what makes Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania – our forests, which gave us our very name – will be destroyed. All because our elected officials are unable to stand up to the million dollar lobbyists of the gas and oil industry.

It all started when Gov. Rendell released his original budget, way back in February. As part of the austerity budget, Rendell said that these bad economic times called for new sources of revenue. And one of the sources Rendell was offering was to charge a severance fee on the natural gas that was being extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation.

This was hardly a radical stance. Every other major gas-producing state has such a fee, including the radical outposts of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. And the multi-national corporations who dominate the drilling industry happily pay the fee in all those other states. So the severance fee was a no brainer, at least initially. The only disagreement was where the money would go – all to the general fund, or with some reserved for the local communities that “host” the drillers, the environment, and our fish and boat and game commissions.

But that was a million dollars ago. Once the tassel-shoed lobbyists of Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, Conoco Phillips and other drilling-related business interests got their sticky fingers into the budget negotiations, suddenly these gas drillers were an “infant industry” and any severance tax would kill them as sure as a stake through their cold hearts. It turns out that the lobbyists were really good at their jobs. When the doors to the backroom blew open, the budget proposal not only had no severance fee, it required the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to give a sweetheart deal to the industry, opening up huge swaths of our state forest to drilling.

And what a sweetheart deal it is. With natural gas prices at a record low, DCNR may well be forced to sell drilling leases in our state forest lands at rock bottom prices. And not just a few leases, either. Because the proposed budget relies on drilling in our state forests to bring in $65 million in just the first year, and $180 million next year, as many as 200,000 acres would have to be leased out, just for the drilling pads and immediate area.

What does that mean in real trees? Of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land, only 1.5 million are within the Marcellus Shale region. More than 660,000 of those acres are already available for drilling and 595,000 are environmentally sensitive areas that cannot be leased. That only leaves approximately 225,000 acres of state forest land that could be leased. So leasing 200,000 acres would mean very few trees would be left standing.

The actual amount of forest disturbed would actually be much greater. Building drilling pads means cutting roads through the forest – roads to be used by hundreds of trucks hauling the millions of gallons of water the special deep drilling and rock fracturing needs to reach the Marcellus Shale gas. And pipelines must be built across the forest to carry the gas to market.

So the state forest will soon look more like the state checkerboard, with a few trees separating the drilling operations.

But just turning our state into No-Sylvania isn’t the end of the mischief the budget negotiators have planned. Leasing the state forest to the gas industry will not bring in enough money to make up our budget shortfall. For that, the negotiators are turning to the folks with really deep pockets: bingo players and concert goers. The budget proposal calls for new taxes not on the multi-national gas companies, but on small games of chance – like the bingo games the local volunteer fire departments hold to raise money, and on theatre and concert tickets. In short, the folks without lobbyists.

This plan to destroy our forests and rob the poor to protect the rich multi-national gas industry can be stopped, by only with enough citizen outrage that the legislators turn this bad deal down. All in all, that would be better than having to come up with a new name for our state.

(PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998.)