Concerned about the end of a moratorium on gas leasing in state parks, the environmental group PennFuture announced its "Don't drill through the heart of Pennsylvania" campaign Thursday, aimed at preventing Marcellus Shale drilling in the parks. In February Governor Tom Corbett overturned former Governor Ed Rendell's executive order against leasing more park land to drillers.
John Quigley, advisor to PennFuture and former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) said the Commonwealth doesn't own the mineral rights under 80% of state park land. "As the state park system was accumulated over decades, when the Commonwealth acquired the land the mineral rights had either been previously sold or were prohibitively expensive," said Quigley. "So the net result is, in the vast majority of cases, when it comes to state parks the Commonwealth bought only the land and not the subsurface rights. So those subsurface rights are in private ownership."
Quigley said they are asking drillers and ancillary companies to sign a pledge to protect state parks by agreeing not to develop deep gas reserves that disturb the surface of state parks, to not participate in the development of any pipeline carrying gas obtained through drilling in parks, and not knowingly purchase market gas from reserves obtained by surface disturbance. The campaign also asks companies to use horizontal drilling techniques to access the gas with the wells located outside the parks.
PennFuture is also asking the state legislature and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a 300-foot buffer from the boundary of a state park, and impose a "significant" impact fee on drilling in parks.
He said there is a very real prospect of drill rigs puncturing parks "of roads, and pipelines, and storage areas gouging what I think are very precious public places," said Quigley. "The tranquility and solitude of these public refuges to be shattered by truck traffic, and heavy equipment, and drilling and compressor stations. That is a jarring prospect, ad I can assure that the reality of this will be far worse."
Out of the state's 117 state parks 61 are on top the Marcellus Shale formation. According to PennFuture those 61 saw $411 million in visitor spending and support roughly 6,000 jobs.