Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some protection for our state parks after all?

Pending the outcome of Tuesday's election (which might possibly bury the issue of such a policy), this could be some very good news for PA's state parks and forests.

[This article appeared on  the website for Scranton's Times Tribune].

Policy targets drilling in parks
By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published October 30, 2010

HARRISBURG - A new policy to minimize the impact of potential natural gas drilling on state park and forest land where the state doesn't own subsurface mineral rights is being established by state environmental officials.

The policy by the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources requires applicants for drilling permits to specify all areas of a tract that will be disturbed.

DCNR will then evaluate how drilling on the tract will affect wildlife, water resources, public recreation and environmentally sensitive areas and recommend steps to limit its impact.

Prospective drillers will include DCNR's environmental review when they submit an application for a well-drilling permit to DEP.

A clear review policy is needed because the state doesn't own the mineral rights to 80 percent of state park land and 15 percent of state forest land, said DCNR Secretary John Quigley. In these situations, DCNR lacks the ability to put controls in place that would come with a standard lease agreement. But DEP can compensate for that by attaching conditions to a drilling permit to address environmental issues, officials said.

Sixty state parks are located in the Marcellus Shale formation, the focus of a new type of drilling for deep gas pockets.

DCNR officials are concerned about potential drilling at the popular Ohiopyle State Park in Southwest Pennsylvania, said agency spokeswoman Chris Novak. Some companies are interested in doing seismic tests at Ohiopyle and the state owns the mineral rights to only 4,000 acres of the park's 20,000 acres.

A group of Susquehanna County residents is taking action to protect Salt Springs State Park from the impact of drilling. Several Marcellus Shale wells have been drilled on nearby land outside the park.

The Silver Lake Association petitioned the state Environmental Quality Board in March to grant an "exceptional value" designation for the Silver Creek watershed which includes the state park.

This designation would ban activities that can degrade the watershed's water quality.

To read the remainder of this article, please click HERE.

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