Pennsylvania forests under assault from oil and gas drilling

A recent article in the Philadelphia City Paper reports on a memo sent by the former Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources to Governor Edward Rendell in March, 2009. The memo stated that the Governor's request to lease an additional 40,000 acres of state forest for natural gas would ".....scar the economic, scenic, ecological, and recreational values of the forest — especially the most wild and remote areas of our state."

One week later, the Secretary resigned. Then the Governor doubled the leasing plans to 80,000 acres. And the City Paper now reports that the Governor intends to lease even more land for drilling this year.

While I previously posted promising news that Pennsylvania is going to update its rules for well construction, it has, on the other hand, established an expedited permitting review process and taken away the authority of county conservation districts to review permits.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has reviewed some permits approved under the expedited process and found serious violations, such as a pipeline running through a sensitive wetland.

In western Pennsylvania, there are over 15,000 oil and gas wells in the Allegheny National Forest, more than the other 154 National Forests combined. More are planned.

Pennsylvania's forests, rivers, and wildlife habitats were devastated by industrial development decades ago. Since then, they have been carefully nurtured to restore what was lost. Pennsylvanians could once again enjoy the beauty of nature and all the wonderful things it offers -- clean water, peacefulness, vital wildlife habitat, fishing and hunting, camping and other family recreation. Now these priceless values are again seriously threatened.