with thanks from Splashdown!
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives, led by a core group of "green dog" and "hunting dog" House Democrats, and a strong coalition of conservation, hunting and angling organizations, have staved off a raid on Pennsylvania's State Forest system by the gas drilling industry and their legislative allies. A strong public outcry that included conservationists, hunters, anglers and most of the state's major newspapers helped achieve this reprieve.
The outcome is a significant improvement over a series of proposals to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of state forest land to gas drilling. The original budget agreement would also have rescinded the Oil and Gas Lease Fund that since 1955 has been used to purchase land for state parks and invest in park and forest infrastructure among many uses.
The final package still requires DCNR to raise $60 million from drilling in the State Forests this year, but eliminates any further requirements that the agency lease land for drilling. It also preserves the fundamental integrity of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund.
Heroes of the forests... Thank you!
Anyone who uses and values Penn's Woods owes a debt of gratitude to Representative Dave Levdansky (D-Allegheny) who led the effort to repel the raid on the forest against long odds. We can't name all of the House members who provided assistance, but a few we would like to salute include Representatives Greg Vitali (D-Delaware), Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks), David Kessler (D-Berks), Ed Staback (D-Lackawanna), Mike Hanna (D-Clinton), Robert Freeman (D-Northampton), Camille "Bud George (D-Clearfield), Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery), Tom Houghton (D-Chester), Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D-Chester), John Siptroth (D-Monroe) and Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery).
A sigh of relief, a call to arms
Citizens who care about public lands can breathe a sigh of relief today, but this is only a temporary reprieve. We must enact a severance tax, just like every other major gas producing state, in order to relieve the pressure to turn our forests into a cash register for the state budget.