Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pa. governor halts leasing state forests for natural gas drilling

On Tuesday Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell signed an executive order banning further leasing of state forests for Marcelllus Shale drilling. "Rendell, who will leave office in January, signed the moratorium in a bitter denouement to the legislature's failure to enact a natural gas severance tax, which left Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for the breakdown," Andrew Maykuth of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. During the announcement, Rendell also urged voters to support Democrats in next week's election, leading Republican leaders to call the move political posturing. (Photo Ed Rendell, by Christine Baker, Patriot-News)

"Maybe he thinks it will somehow help the Democratic candidates he's helping to elect," Republican state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi told Maykuth. "I don't think it advances on the serious and important issue of how to maximize the benefit of the natural resource we have here in the Commonwealth." Rendell's successor would have to sign a rescinding order if he chose to lease the state lands. "Senate Republican leaders, committed to not raising taxes, are unwilling to declare the state forests off-limits to more leasing," Maykuth writes. "About 725,000 of the state's 2.1 million acres of forests have been leased - 65,000 acres this year."

"We cannot keep the ecological balance, we cannot keep the character of our wild and natural lands, if we allow any expansion of drilling," Rendell said. John Quigley, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the state's green certification, which supports the sustainable timber industry, would be in jeopardy if the state lease much more forest land for natural gas drilling. "On Monday DCNR approved a new policy requiring the state to conduct environmental reviews on drilling on 290,000 acres of land upon which the state does not own the mineral rights," Maykuth writes. (Read more)

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