Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf fulfilled a campaign promise by signing an executive order today to stop granting new leases for oil and gas drilling in state parks and forests.
“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” said Wolf, a Democrat. “This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”
Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, lifted a previous moratorium put in place in 2010 by Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Corbett implemented a new policy that allowed gas to be tapped by drilling horizontal wells underneath state parklands from nearby properties, but restricted surface activity.
Wolf’s order restores Rendell’s full ban on activities.
To be clear, the moratorium, or ban, applies only to new drilling. Companies with fracking operations currently leased or operated on state lands aren’t affected. The state has allowed about 700,000 of the 2.1 million acres of state forests to be developed for oil and gas drilling.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources [DCNR] has approved more than 1,000 Marcellus Shale gas wells on forest lands, and about 600 of those wells have been drilled on 230 wellpads. But there is room on existing leases for as many as 6,000. If all of those wells are drilled and developed, approximately 25,000 forested acres would be converted for roads, pipeline right of ways and well pads.
Wolf’s order states that, effective immediately, “DCNR is directed to protect the lands of the Commonwealth that are held in trust for its citizens and for generations,” according to a statement released by the governor’s office.
Reach Natasha Khan at 412-315-0261 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @khantasha.
This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.
James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.
It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?