“I have asked the Republican chair of the committee to schedule a hearing as soon as possible to probe the troubling and apparently forced resignation of John Norbeck as director of state parks,” said Rep. George. “The state parks and forests belong to the people of Pennsylvania, and the committee has a duty to oversee and protect those lands.”
Rep. George noted that while time is running out on the 2011-12 legislative session, responsibilities to the public are not on a timer.
“I was willing to give the Corbett administration the benefit of the doubt and wrote to DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan last week asking for his explanation of Mr. Norbeck’s departure,” Rep. George said. “When the news broke, the administration said that, ‘Any assertion that there's a connection between John Norbeck's resignation and natural resource development on state land is totally without merit.’
“Evidently, there is merit to those assertions,” Rep. George said. “As reported today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Norbeck attributes his opposition to timbering, mining and gas drilling in our parks for his dismissal.”
In his letter to his Republican counterpart on the committee -- Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango), Rep. George said, “We must speak out to protect our public lands from those who may see them simply as cash cows.”
The resignation and reports that mining is being pursued at a state park are the latest in a string of troubling reports emanating from the DCNR.
“Precious land in the Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming and Sullivan counties is being eyed hungrily by gas drillers, and the head of the DCNR’s Citizen Advisory Council resigned, saying the administration was ignoring citizen input and had cut the council's budget by 90 percent,” Rep. George said. “We’ve also witnessed the apparent politicizing of the DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Board as projects dealing with Marcellus gas-related studies are cut drastically.
“If smoke indicates fire, this has turned into an inferno,” Rep. George said. “We need to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.”
Rep. George noted that the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee has not held a voting meeting in more than four months.
“Many important environmental and energy issues are begging for attention, including the need for stronger oversight over deep injection wells for Marcellus waste water and bolstering pre-drilling water quality surveys near proposed Marcellus shale gas wells,” Rep. George said. “The days are getting shorter, but that doesn’t mean our attention span to critical issues should wane.”