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

PRESS CONFERENCE – Moratorium on Drilling in State Forest

March 9 – 10 AM Moratorium on future gas leases in State Forests

Representative Vitali will hold a press conference in Media Room, main Capitol.

Greg will announce the introduction of a bill for 3 year moratorium on leasing in State Forests. He would like to have a stage full of representatives from Environmental Groups at the Press Conference.

Call Rob Fogel at Greg Vitali’s District Office 610 – 789 -3900 OR 717 – 787 – 7647

If you can’t get through to either number, the backup is 717-787-7647

to say “I’ll be there with bells on”

If you can’t be there, please find a warm body to represent your organization.

The press conference will take about 45 minutes.

HB 2213 Proposal

On May 25th the Pennsylvania House environmental committee passed crucial legislation to protect our rivers and streams from dangerous gas drilling. 

This proposal, HB 2213, does several important things, including:

• Prohibiting gas drilling near rivers, lakes and drinking water sources; 

• Requiring gas drillers to disclose exactly what chemicals are being used during drilling; and 

• Increasing penalties for drillers who do not comply with our cornerstone environmental laws.

Gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has already caused countless problems for residents throughout Pennsylvania, such as: Poisoning drinking water, polluting air, and contaminating our rivers and streams, to name a few. With HB 2213, we can stop much of the damage caused by gas drilling.

We’re not completely out of the woods yet, though — the legislation now must pass in the full state House.

Above info courtesy of PennEnvironment: http://www.pennenvironment.org/

House Bill 2235 Letter

Here’s is a sample letter to my local representative. Please feel free to copy and paste it if you are not sure how to write your own. Make sure you send it to your correct representative.

Representative Matthew Baker
Ryan Office Building, Room 115
451 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2068

Dear Representative Baker,

I urge you to vote for the Save Our Forests legislation (HB 2235). We
need this legislation to put a freeze on new leases for natural gas
drilling on our precious state parks and forests, and to ensure that
the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources can sustainability
manage these lands.

–  Already one-third, or 700,000 acres, of state forest lands are open
for natural gas drilling. We should not be forcing open any more lands
just to balance the state budget. A severance tax on gas drilling
should be pursued instead.

–  Our local industries like outdoor tourism, recreation and
sustainable timbering rely on well-managed, protected lands in order to
thrive. Gas drilling operations would threaten these industries that
have been thriving here for generations.

–  Drilling for gas involves clear cutting fields and trees to install
enormous well pads, as well as building access roads and pipelines. In
many cases, this infrastructure has yet to be constructed and will mean
significant disruption to our otherwise well managed forests.

Pennsylvania is to no stranger to environmental destruction at the
hands of a booming industry. Our landscapes are still scarred from our
coal and steel legacies. We cannot again sacrifice the long term health
and well being of our Commonwealth for short-term gain.

Please be a hero for our state forests and vote for HB 2235.

Sincerely,

(Your name and address)

Delay Equals Opportunity…make your voice heard!

Last week’s expected House floor action on the Save the Forests bill (HB 2235) – to protect the best parts of our state forest land from gas drilling – was pushed back to next week. HB 2235 would impose a five-year freeze on new leasing of state land for gas drilling until the state can study the impacts of drilling on natural resources and hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other uses of the forest. The bill’s proponents are working to gain strong bipartisan support for the bill.

If you haven’t already done so, contact your representative in the State House and asking her/him to vote for the bill. Don’t let this opportunity to help save the forest pass by.

House Bill 2235

palta logo

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will consider Rep. Vitali’s House Bill 2235 this week. The bill would place a 5-year moratorium on new leases of State Forest to natural gas drillers.  The five years would give DCNR time to study the impacts current drilling leases will have on the environmental, economic and recreational values of our State Forests.  After the moratorium ends, the bill would allow DCNR to lease further lands only if DCNR determines that such leases can be done without threatening water and air quality, habitat, ecosystems, recreational, social and asthetic values of the forests.

Call your PA Representative and ask them to
1. support the moratorium bill, and
2. vote against weakening amendments.

Find your representative’s contact information.  Just use box labeled “Find Members By” in the upper-right hand corner…

Background:

One third of our state forests are already open to natural gas drilling.  Without careful scientific study and planning, we can’t know what additional drilling, if any, can occur without harming our publicly owned forest’s environmental, economic and recreational values.  Our state forests are one of our greatest public assets, protecting our highest quality streams, providing public recreation, supporting tourism, and providing a sustainable timber supply.  As such, we should exercise balance and restraint when considering making additional lands available for drilling.

Several amendments have been filed which seek to weaken the moratorium proposal, mainly by shortening the moratorium to 1 year.  The moratorium needs to be 5 years to yield enough data to meaningfully understand the cumulative effects of drilling in our State Forests.  To date, there are only 9 Marcellus wells in production in State Forests; however, 2000 more are expected to be drilled in the next 5 years.

No private lands will be affected by the moratorium nor will any State Forest land already leased.

The moratorium would take effect after the additional leasing of state forests already planned by Governor Rendell for the 2010-2011 budget (which is expected to yield $112 million).

For more information, please call 717-230-8560.

Leasing of PA state land for natural gas drilling

Here is a link to the transcript about the PA House Majority Policy Committee’s public hearing regarding the leasing of state and for gas drilling.

http://www.pahouse.com/policycommittee/documents/31810hmpc.pdf