HARRISBURG - About 700,000 acres of state forest land in the Marcellus Shale region is being placed off-limits to any natural gas drilling under an executive order signed today by Gov. Ed Rendell.
Mr. Rendell said a moratorium on new leasing of forest land to drillers is needed to protect Pennsylvania's ability to manage the forests in a sustainable manner and protect the state's forest products and tourism industries. He said an executive order is necessary because the Senate didn't act this session on a House-passed bill to place a three-year moratorium on additional leases.
Mr. Rendell expressed hope the next governor who takes office in January will continue the executive order
The executive order is based on an analysis by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that examined 800,000 acres of unleased forest land in the Marcellus Shale formation. This acreage covered by the order includes wild and natural areas, old-growth forests, environmentally sensitive areas including wetlands, habitat for endangered species and scenic vistas; wilderness areas; 88,000 acres in the Poconos and 20,000 acres in the Laurel Highlands where ecotourism is developing.
Another 700,000 acres of state forest land in the Marcellus Shale formation is either leased for oil and gas drilling or the state doesn't own the subsurface mineral rights. The potential exists that companies could drill 1,000 well pads, containing up to 10,000 wells, and build roads and pipelines on this leased land during the next 30 years.
Meanwhile, five Republican senators from Southeast Pennsylvania have urged their Senate leadership to revive talks on a severance tax and include measures to improve environmental and natural gas safety regulations as well. They are Sens. Ted Erickson, R-26, Drexel Hill; Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, Willow Hill; Bob Mensch, R-24, Schwenksville; Chuck McIlhinney, R-10, Doylestown, and Robert Tomlinson, R-6, Bensalem.
All five hold even-numbered seats meaning they face reelection Tuesday. All five have Democratic opponents. They represent suburban districts outside the Marcellus Shale drilling zone, but where constituents are concerned about environmental issues and the safety of pipelines transporting natural gas to seaboard cities.
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What do you think?
Looks like more of the PA land owners may get wells sooner now.