Monday, May 26, 2014

Corbett lifts drilling moratorium in Pa state forests

Photo by Donald Gilliland/Patriot-News 

All public relations pros know that, if you must announce bad or controversial news, do it at the start of a weekend when the public is least likely to notice.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's media handlers picked not only a Friday afternoon but a Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend to go public with the announcement of the governor's executive order that opens state parks and forests to additional natural gas leasing.  

The order, which lifts the moratorium imposed by former Gov. Ed Rendell, comes with the restriction that the drilling cannot result in "additional, long-term, surface disturbance." A press release says that the caveat "will only allow gas to be extracted horizontally through wells located on adjacent private lands or previously leased ares of the state forest."

Corbett's proposed budget includes $75 million in new revenue that his administration expects to result from additional leases of state-owned mineral rights. 

 Donald Gilliland reports in the Patriot-News:
Rep. Greg Vitali, a Democrat from Delaware County, is waging an open records battle with the Corbett administration in an attempt to find out how they arrived at the $75 million estimate for revenue likely to be generated by the additional leasing.
Yesterday, the Office of Open Records ruled in Vitali's favor, directing DCNR to release the relevant documents.
Vitali compared the administration's reluctance to release records to its Friday-afternoon-before-a-holiday-weekend announcement of the executive order 
"It shows a total lack of interest in transparency and on the contrary, a concerted effort to hide what he's doing," said Vitali. "I think it's appalling."

Marie Cusick reports in State Impact:
The state’s main gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition praised the plan as a common-sense approach. 
“Safe, tightly-regulated shale development has been, and continues to be, a powerful economic engine for the entire Commonwealth, creating thousands of jobs, especially in our manufacturing sector, and generating huge amounts of tax revenue all while enhancing our environment.” said MSC president Dave Spigelmyer in a statement.
Environmental groups have criticized the plan. PennFuture president Cindy Dunn issued a statement in conjunction with the heads of seven other environmental organizations, calling the plan short-sighted.
“It’s a disappointment,” she says. “We think it’s a big mistake to go forward with this. As with the past leases, this was driven by budgetary needs, not by the sound management of the public trust.”
Read the full story here

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