Follow me on Twitter: @JohnHQuigley

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Burning the furniture to heat the house - again

In his proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has proposed lifting the moratorium on state forest leasing that John Hanger and I wrote, that I fought for, and that was signed by Governor Rendell in October, 2010. He would also, for the first time, allow leasing of state park land for gas development. Governor Corbett's purpose is to raise $75 million dollars that he can spend on favored priorities as he runs for reelection

I'm quoted about it in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The Governor's claim is that the leasing will involve no surface disturbance. Theoretically, that would involve drilling horizontally underneath previously unleased state land from existing well pads on - or existing or new well pads off  - state land. But even if new leasing involved absolutely no surface disturbance to state forest or park lands, there will still be risks and impacts to air quality, water quality and quantity; and to recreation, habitats, aesthetics and more. 

DCNR has never allowed leasing of state park land for oil or gas development where the state owns the mineral rights - only about 20% of park land. And DCNR’s 2010 leasing analysis found that all of the unleased state forest land was environmentally sensitive and required a higher standard of stewardship. So, how this “non-impact” leasing is defined – and put into practice – will crucially affect the future of the state forest and the state park system, the forest's independent certification as being sustainably managed, the state's tourism and timber economies, the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds - and all of us.

And there are other issues. As it was in 2008-2010, the state forest - and now the added insult of the state park system - are being used as the cash cow to be milked – if not slaughtered – to balance the state budget, or to fund things that politicians want to do without (shudder) raising taxes or making tough choices. This abuse of the public lands is already the subject of courageous pending litigation. Further, by lifting the moratorium and egregiously opening state parks to leasing, the Governor thumbs his nose at the state Supreme Court’s recent decision on Act 13 and its central ruling that the public natural resources of the Commonwealth constitute a public trust that state officials are obliged to preserve.

Lifting the moratorium and leasing park land amount to burning the furniture to heat the house. Again. It is short-sighted and very bad public policy.

May 23, 2014 update: Corbett lifts the moratorium, and I restrain myself.

1 comment:

  1. Time and again, Tom Corbett has proven himself to be a minion of the Gas Lobby that funds his saturation campaigns! His policies on Education, Social programs, and our Environment betray his lack of concern for the majority of Pennsylvanians!