Thursday, October 28, 2010

DCNR, DEP Establish New Gas Well Development Permit Policy For State Parks, Forests

The departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection this week announced a new policy which establishes clear procedures for evaluating the impacts of oil and gas drilling on state park and forest land as part of DEP's standard well-permitting process.
Because the Commonwealth does not own the mineral rights to 80 percent of state park land and about 15 percent of state forest land, DCNR Secretary John Quigley said this joint policy will provide another measure of protection to Pennsylvania's state-owned natural resources. Sixty state parks are located above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
"To manage development of oil and gas drilling where the commonwealth does not own the mineral rights, we needed a formal process in place to ensure that natural gas well operators properly coordinate with DCNR," DEP Secretary John Hanger said. "This will help us determine the impacts of proposed oil and gas wells on state parks and forests before they submit their well permit applications to DEP."
"Coordination is especially important on the areas of our state parks and forests where DCNR does not have the controls that would be put in place by a lease agreement," Secretary Quigley said.
This new policy dovetails and support DEP's existing practice of considering the impacts of proposed wells on public natural resources, including state parks and forests, as outlined in Section 205(c) of the Oil and Gas Act.
The policy, effective immediately, requires well operators to identify all areas of a tract that will be disturbed by development activities. DCNR will delineate, with assistance from the well operator, any areas of concern and recommend measures to minimize the impacts.
Impacts to be considered include: threatened and endangered species habitat; wildlife corridors; water resources; scenic viewsheds; public recreation areas; wetlands and floodplains; high-value trees and regeneration areas; avoiding steep slopes; pathways for invasive species; air quality; noise; and road placement and construction methods.
After coordinating with DCNR, the well operator will submit the DCNR Environmental Review to DEP as part of a well permit application. An application that does not include sufficient information to allow DEP to consider the impacts on state park and forest lands will be considered incomplete.
DCNR will provide a letter if it is in agreement on recommended response measures. If there is no agreement, DEP may address the concerns with permit conditions.
A copy of the new policy is available online.
For more information, visit DCNR's Leasing In State Forests webpage.

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