Statement of David Masur, PennEnvironment Director:
PennEnvironment applauds Governor Ed Rendell for signing an Executive Order today to ban any further leases for Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s state forests. While the drilling industry appears to be using its access and influence to run rampant in Harrisburg—most recently convincing the state Senate to hold up a natural gas severance tax—it is reassuring to see Gov. Rendell take such strong steps to protect this valuable resource.
Because all Pennsylvanians are the owners and stewards of our state forests, we have an obligation to protect them from encroaching gas drilling and all of the negative environmental impacts that come with it.
Already, more than 40% of Pennsylvania’s state forestlands that fall within the Marcellus Shale are potentially available for gas drilling—a whopping 700,000 acres. This means more roads and well pads—and in turn, lost habitat and forestlands in exchange for more pipelines and truck traffic in our state forests.
We know that this drilling could lead to more water pollution in our state forestlands and in our rivers and streams. For example, this past March the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported drilling-related pollution releases in Tiadaghton State Forest’s Pine Creek, near Waterville in Lycoming County.
We know that there is broad public support for protecting our state forests from further degradation and keeping them “wild.” In May, the state House passed a 3-year moratorium on gas drilling in state forests (HB 2235) with huge bipartisan margins, 157-33. Sadly, this is just one more case of the state Senate holding up important environmental action that will protect our environment—to date, the Senate has been unwilling to bring up HB 2235 for a vote. This shows the influence of the gas drilling industry in our state legislature—and why Governor Rendell’s actions are so important today.
If we want to ensure that segments of Pennsylvania’s state forest system remain wild and preserve places that can be used for fishing, hiking and other recreational activities, it is critical that we protect these important public lands for generations to come.