The good folks at FracTracker recently posted the map below of important natural heritage areas in Pennsylvania, created by the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program.
These areas contain sensitive ecological resources - plants, vertebrates, invertebrates, natural communities and geologic features. All but one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have completed inventories of these sensitive areas, and while more field work is needed to enhance the accuracy and completeness of the maps that the surveys yield, these maps are essential conservation planning tools.
They also tell a story – that Penn’s Woods is a special place.
Now consider this map:
Obviously, there’s quite a bit of overlap - even more when you consider the pipeline development that is happening and will continue to occur in southcentral and southeast Pennsylvania. And therein is the challenge to responsible natural gas development in the Keystone State, which will soon become the Number 3 natural gas-producing state in the nation.
Last year, Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recognized the central importance to Pennsylvania of avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating the impacts of natural gas development on areas of high conservation value. As these two maps show, that is a tall order here.
Smart, sensitive planning on landscape and watershed levels by drillers and pipeline companies is key. And as IEA has pointed out, that kind of smart planning can lower overall development costs by as much as 5 percent. Such planning should be required at both the Federal (for interstate pipelines) and state levels (for everything else). But smart companies in the natural gas industry can lead the way right now – saving money while enhancing the industry’s social license to operate. Some are beginning to do this vitally important work. Every company in the industry must.