Environmental organizations respond to Gov. Corbett's lifting of executive order prohibiting leasing of public lands for natural gas drilling

May 23, 2014, 16:02 ET from PennFuture

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Corbett's decision to lift a three-year-old moratorium to expand leasing of public lands for gas development underscores the short-sighted nature of his stewardship of our natural resources. In place of the 2010 moratorium, the governor today signed a new executive order that would allow new leasing that would not "result in additional surface disturbance on state forest or state park lands."

The governor's suggestion that this new leasing would have "no long term surface disturbances" belies reality because many types of gas development activities will have significant impacts on Pennsylvania's public lands even though they may not constitute "surface disturbance" (a term not defined in the new executive order).

In February, the Corbett administration said that any new drilling would be "non-impact drilling." The executive order he has signed acknowledges that impacts will occur. However the Governor chooses to couch it, the bottom line is that expanded drilling under public lands will create more air pollution, more truck traffic, more water withdrawals, more toxic waste water, and more risk of accidents like the recent well explosion in Greene County and this week's explosion in Butler County.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' (DCNR) recently released Marcellus monitoring report confirmed that drilling is already harming our state forests and highlights the need to keep the moratorium on further leasing in place. The impacts to date -- with less than 20 percent of the anticipated 3,000 wells yet to be drilled – already points to a significant diminishing of core forest resources including wildlife, air quality, water, and the public's right to enjoyment and recreation of these lands and the economic benefits that accrue.

Pennsylvania's public lands are held in the public trust and we cannot simply sell their rights to the highest bidder. Our state parks and forests should be an oasis for wildlife and for recreation -- not an ATM during budget season.

The above statement was affirmed by the following:
Joanne Kilgour, director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania chapter
David Masur, executive director, PennEnvironment
Josh McNeil, executive director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
Curt Ashenfelter, executive director, Keystone Trails Association
Nathan Sooy, Clean Water Action
Ron Evans, president, Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation
Philip S. Wallis, executive director, Audubon Pennsylvania
Cindy Dunn, president and CEO, PennFuture

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Contact: Elaine Labalme

SOURCE PennFuture