Citing the need to ensure that local governments and conservation districts are not left out of a plan she has co-sponsored called "Energize PA," Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) said Wednesday she needs more details about the state budget agreement before she can decide if it is the best deal for the people of her district and across Pennsylvania.
"I have serious concerns that the budget agreement could send all of the revenue to the state budget and ignore local governments and conservation districts," Pickett said, noting that in her legislation, a portion of the revenue from the leases would directly benefit residents of the Marcellus Shale area. This was designed to offset any increased costs that may accompany expanded natural gas harvesting on state forest lands or drilling in general.
"Any proposal to lease public land for drilling should at least set money aside to repair environmental damage that could occur," said State Rep. John Siptroth, D-Monroe/Pike at a Capitol news conference where he joined other lawmakers and environmentalists in expressing concerns about a plan in the tentative budget agreement to lease 200,000 acres of state forest this year and next year for natural gas drilling. "One needs to look no further than the areas of our state where coal was mined to see the possible consequences."
While communities will benefit from the increased economic activity, the new drilling will also increase the burden on local infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
Lawmakers at the news conference said the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources should have final say on how many acres are leased for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation and the location of those leases.
They also said the Oil and Gas Fund in DCNR's budget, which collects revenues from leases on state land currently used to reinvest in the park system and to fund DCNR, should not be eliminated. The budget agreement would redirect $145 million currently in the fund to the General Fund to help plug this year's budget shortfall, and it calls for eliminating the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and directing future state oil and gas royalties to the General Fund.
"Although I have been a strong advocate of the leasing plan," Pickett said, "I do not know if I can support a measure that does not consider the impact of the industry on local governments and conservation districts."
Meanwhile, we're wondering which of our legislators is worrying about the environmental impact of committing hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of acres of wild state forest land to heavily polluting industrialization??? This post shows how oil and gas drillers are transforming the Allegheny National Forest. It is PA's only national forest, already devastated by over 9000 gas wells, with 20,000 projected by 2020 and 3000 additional miles of roads! Increasing amounts of state forest stand to become degraded habitat for wildlife, endangered forest, endangered watershed, the entire balance of our ecosystem... deliberately put in harm's way...
Surely we can do better than this.
What's the real reason for abandoning the severance tax this year, Governor Rendell?
Siptroth said the proposal comes at a time when budget negotiators are considering cutting the state Department of Environmental Protection's budget from $229 million to $173 million. He said those cuts would impact the agency's ability to oversee increased drilling.
How many times is Pennsylvania going to look the other way while it gives a free lunch to freeloaders?
Editorializing by Splashdown in red.