Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Advisory Committee (NGAC) is supposed to discuss the role of state forest land in energy production — it just hasn’t done it yet.
The commonwealth has already leased about 385,400 acres of forest land for natural gas extraction, according to a report released by the DCNR in October.
In March, State Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) introduced legislation to permanently ban leasing additional state forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling. The bill was referred to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, of which Vitali is the Democratic chairman.
NGAC is scheduled to have its second meeting sometime next month after coming together for the first time in October.
Created to fulfill a recommendation from the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Report, NGAC is made up of 21 experts from the fields of conservation, education, natural gas production, environmental consultation and recreation.
Following an introductory first meeting, NGAC members such as Davitt Woodwell are ready to get to work.
Woodwell, the executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council said not much was done at the committee’s initial session.
“The first meeting was a lot of presentation from DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) and the next one I think you’ll hopefully see a lot more interaction with members of the committee,” he said.
NGAC Chairman Jim Grace is Penn State University’s Goddard Chair in Forestry and Environmental Resources Conservation. He said the first conference was “a lot of feeling each other out.”
“Nobody seemed to come with an agenda,” he said. “They’re looking for an agenda, but it didn’t seem like anybody came with an itching that they absolutely needed to discuss or wanted to discuss right off the bat.”
In a written statement, DCNR’s Acting Secretary Ellen Ferretti said the mission of the committee is to “work with DCNR to help identify concepts, best practices and principles, and assist in integrating them into the department’s natural gas management efforts on DCNR lands.”
And if that’s going to happen, Woodwell said the committee needs to focus on the standards of energy production.
“This is an industry that both the art and the science continue to evolve as they learn more about the geology, the typography, the weather, the communities in Pennsylvania,” he said. “And DCNR’s got a great opportunity to really be a leader on setting the expectations for this industry.”
Grace said the committee will begin examining guidelines such as road layouts, land reconstruction, well pad placement, water management and noise issues.