Friday, February 17, 2012

Feb. 20 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Feb 20 PA Environment Digest now available.  Click Here to print this entire Digest.

DCNR Budget Hearing: No New Drilling Leases Planned For State Forests

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday for a little over an hour answering questions about DCNR's proposed FY 2012-13 budget.  
            As usual, the Committee dispensed with Secretary Allan's prepared remarks.  Here are some of the highlights from the questions asked--
Drilling Leases: There are no plans to lease additional State Forest Land, but if they would, they would follow the recommendations of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Commission to only do leases where they leave little or no surface impact.
            Of the 812 well permits have been approved by DCNR on State Forest land, 778 Marcellus Shale wells have been permitted by DEP, 442 wells have been drilled and there are 152 producing wells.
            DCNR anticipates receiving $65 million in FY 2012-13 in royalties and rents from drilling, Secretary Allan said.  He said there may be some decrease in drilling revenues in the next year or so with lower natural gas prices.
            In response to a question, Secretary Allan said the agency professionals are constantly monitoring drilling companies to make sure they comply with their leases and agency best management practices.  He said so far, the drillers have been good stewards and have minimized their impacts on State Forest lands.
Drilling In State Parks: DCNR has a policy that there will be no drilling in State Parks where the state owns the mineral rights, Secretary Allan said.  Unfortunately, he said, the state owns mineral rights on only 20 percent of the land in State Parks and on 80 percent in State Forests.  He said DCNR will look to enforce their guidelines and best management practices on drillers on State Park land and other areas where they don't own mineral rights to make sure any surface impacts are minimized.
State Parks: In spite of budget constraints, Secretary Allan said, DCNR anticipates being able to keep all State Parks open and available for residents, but acknowledged there may be some changes in some services offered, such as the hours in some parks.
            Secretary Allan said an updated economic study shows for every dollar invested, State Parks bring in $12 for a total of $1.1 billion of economic activity annually and they support over 13,000 jobs in and around the parks.
Keystone Fund: The proposed transfer of all DCNR revenues from the Keystone, Parks and Conservation Fund to the General Fund, Secretary Allan said, will require the agency to look to other sources of monies to support their operations, like the Oil and Gas Fund, the Environmental Stewardship (Growing Greener) Fund and the new drilling fee revenue.
            He said he advised the Governor's Office the reduction in funding will require the agency to put off some maintenance projects and reduce the funding going for grants.
            Secretary Allan said he believes in the future there will be more revenue in the Oil and Gas Fund and from the new drilling fee to replace at least some of the Keystone Fund monies.  Click Here for more....

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