Redacted comments due October 13 may shed light on plan
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) has granted in part a Right to Know Law (RTKL) appeal by PennFuture concerning Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's plans to develop natural gas in the Loyalsock State Forest's "Clarence Moore lands." Under the OOR's September 13 decision, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has until October 13 to disclose Anadarko's development plans for the Clarence Moore lands. The decision allows DCNR to redact information that Anadarko has identified as "confidential proprietary" information and "trade secrets." Until now, the DCNR has refused to allow the public access to Anadarko's development plans.
"The decision of the Office of Open Records is a victory for transparency in government and for the Loyalsock State Forest," said PennFuture Staff Attorney Mark Szybist. "We hope that the DCNR and Anadarko will provide Anadarko's development plan without delay so that the public can better understand the extent of the impacts and harms being proposed by Anadarko and DCNR."
The Clarence Moore lands are a 25,621-acre area of the Loyalsock State Forest that hosts numerous sensitive ecological and recreational resources, including the exceptional value watershed of Rock Run, the Old Loggers hiking path, and National Audubon Society-designated Important Bird Areas.
Anadarko owns half of the oil and gas under the Clarence Moore lands and wants to drill wells, build compressor stations, and lay pipelines there. To do so, however, Anadarko needs the DCNR's permission because an unusual provision in the DCNR's deed gives the DCNR exclusive surface control of 18,870 acres of the Clarence Moore lands.
Since September 2012, a coalition of conservation, recreational, and sportsmen's groups including PennFuture has been pressing the DCNR to conduct a meaningful public notice and input process regarding Anadarko's Clarence Moore development plans.
The Loyalsock coalition includes the Responsible Drilling Alliance, the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, Sierra Club, Keystone Trails Association, Audubon Society, PennEnvironment, Izaak Walton League, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Organizations United for the Environment, and Shale Justice.
DCNR denied PennFuture's RTKL request on three grounds: that the plan was an "internal, predecisional" record of the DCNR; that the plan was a construction plan made "for" the DCNR; and that the entire plan constituted confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets. The OOR rejected DCNR's arguments that the development plan was an internal predecisional record or a document made "for" the DCNR.
The DCNR has until October 13 to produce the documents or appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Anadarko could also appeal the decision.
"The public has been kept in the dark far too long in this process," said Jim Abernathy, interim president and CEO of PennFuture. "It's time to shed light on the proceedings. After all, the state is simply the steward of these lands on behalf of all Pennsylvanians and future generations. It's their land and they have a right to know."
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998, with staff in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the "state's leading environmental advocacy organization;" the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization "one of the 10 most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling;" and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture "the commonwealth's main environmental advocate."
Contact: Elaine Labalme