Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Many Questions On Additional Natural Gas Leasing At House Hearing On DCNR Budget

DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti appeared before the House Appropriations Committee for 90 minutes Tuesday answering questions about the agency’s FY 2014-15 budget request.
The hearing covered much the same ground as the Senate on issues related to: additional leasing of State Park or Forest land for natural gas development without additional surface impacts, increasing reliance on oil and gas revenues for general agency operations, potential drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest where DCNR does not own the mineral rights, Heritage Park funding and the Enhanced Penn’s Woods proposal.
Click Here for a copy of Secretary Ferretti’s budget testimony.  Click Here for video of House Appropriations Hearing.
Some of the unique question/answer exchanges include--
Additional Natural Gas Leasing: Rep. Vitali (D-Delaware), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked what the process will be for considering additional leases and whether the agency will do additional environmental studies before leasing takes place.  Secretary Ferretti said DCNR would consider proposals from companies as they come in and does not have any specific list of State Parks and Forest land in mind for leasing.  She reminded Committee members the state does not own the mineral rights to 80 percent of State Park land and 20 percent of State Forest land and that there are no drill pads on State Park land now.
Gov. Rendell issued an Executive Order in 2010 prohibiting further leasing on State Forest and Park land after his Administration leased 137,000 acres of State Forest for Marcellus Shale drilling.  The moratorium was issued on October 26 just days before the November gubernatorial election.
Dan Devlin, acting Deputy for Parks and Forests, said under existing leases 980 wells have been approved by DCNR, 954 well permits were issued by DEP, 569 wells were drilled, 401 wells are reporting royalties and 227 well pads have been approved by DCNR.
In response to a question about water quality monitoring, Secretary Ferretti said DCNR has been actively monitoring water quality since 2011 and DCNR should be issuing its monitoring report on natural gas development on DCNR lands in April, adding her agency is studying and monitoring State Parks and Forests all the time.
Devlin said DCNR works with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to do real-time monitoring of water quality, as well as colleges and universities and other local groups on longer term monitoring.
Relying On Oil And Gas Revenues: Rep. Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed a concern about relying on oil and gas revenues to support daily operations instead of infrastructure improvements.  Secretary Ferretti said DCNR is grateful to have these resources to keep State Parks and Forests open when other states are seeing their operations shutdown.  She noted existing law sets aside the first $50 million for DCNR’s use and any additional funds would have to be considered each year with the budget.
ATV Registration: In response to a question from Rep. Oberlander (R-Armstrong) about promoting more use of trails by ATVs, Secretary Ferretti said DCNR is working on creating longer ATV riding experiences and working with the ATV community to better address their issues.
Funding First Responders For Park, Forest Emergencies: Rep. Boback (R-Columbia) asked if DCNR funds local fire and emergency medical services to respond to emergencies in State Parks and Forests.  Devlin said no, but the state does pay in-lieu of tax payments to local governments.
Click Here for a summary of the Senate hearing on DCNR’s budget.

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