Pennsylvania governor reinstates state forest drilling moratorium

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order fully reinstating a 2010 moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state forests and parks. His predecessor, Tom Corbett (R), had modified it in May 2014 to allow leases from nearby sites if they did not disturb state surface land.

“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” Wolf said during a signing ceremony at Benjamin Rush State Park.

“This is about striking the right balance,” he maintained. “Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”

Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association Pres. Louis D. D’Amico called Wolf’s Jan. 29 action unfortunate. “It eliminates land with proven energy reserves from potential natural gas development that would not be impacted in any way during the process of drilling and completing a well,” he said.

The decision will eliminate a long-term financial windfall for the commonwealth that already has returned more than $700 million in the past 7 years at a time when Pennsylvania is desperate for new revenue sources, according to D’Amico.

“Finally, the irony of this administration preventing drilling for a resource that it is seeking to tax cannot be overlooked,” he said. “This is a lose-lose [situation] for Pennsylvania's taxpayers and energy consumers."

Joanne Kilgour, who directs the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter, expressed her approval. “Over the past year, our volunteers have tirelessly advocated to protect public lands from natural gas development, and today they share this victory with Gov. Wolf and with present and future Pennsylvanians,” she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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