Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in back room deal to allow more gas development in State Forest lands
DCNR must seek public input
PITTSBURGH, March 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PennFuture has confirmed through Right to Know requests that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is in advanced negotiations with Anadarko Petroleum to allow new gas development operations in the Loyalsock State Forest. The area at risk, known as the "Clarence Moore lands," has great ecological and recreational significance and includes the Exceptional Value watershed of Rock Run, the Old Loggers Path, and the Devils Elbow Natural Area, and is a National Audubon Society-designated Important Bird Area. PennFuture has also filed appeals with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records of the DCNR's refusal to make public Anadarko's proposed development plans and maps.
Although Anadarko and other third parties own or control the oil and gas rights beneath these lands, the DCNR has exclusive control of most of the surface area due to an unusual provision in its land deed. As a result, the DCNR has the power to prevent any development from taking place there.
Under the Pennsylvania Conservation and Natural Resources Act, DCNR may not grant a right-of-way over state forest lands unless it determines that it is in the interest of the Commonwealth or its citizens.
"It is impossible for DCNR to make an informed determination concerning the public interest without public participation," said Steve Stroman, policy director for PennFuture. "PennFuture and a coalition of conservation, recreation, fishing, and hunting organizations has asked the DCNR to open a public comment period on Anadarko's development proposal since DCNR has a legal duty to conserve and maintain State Forest lands for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, including future generations. To date, our request of the DCNR goes unheeded."
DCNR itself concluded in its 2010 study ("Impacts of Leasing Additional State Forest for Gas Development") that "there are zero State Forest Land acres suitable for [additional] gas leasing involving surface disturbance." For DCNR to allow surface disturbance on state-controlled Loyalsock State Forest lands would be a de facto lease, and to do this without any public input would be clearly unreasonable.
"The DCNR has a unique opportunity to protect these lands," said Mark Szybist, staff attorney for PennFuture, "and the public deserves a say in what is in the public's best interest."
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998, with offices 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)