PennFuture, one of Pennsylvania's leading environmental advocacy organizations, is calling for support for their efforts to bring legislative action to stop the prospect of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks. Gas companies, which are steadily expanding drilling operations throughout the state, are current performing preliminary studies evaluating state parks for drilling operations. Most importantly, despite seeming counter-intuitive, drilling for gas in Pennsylvania's state parks is currently completely legal.
Although it may come as a surprise to many, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not own the mineral rights to over 80 percent of the land in Pennsylvania's state parks. This is a result of the fact that when the state acquired the majority of the land currently established as state park lands, the mineral rights to these lands had already been purchased or were too expensive to acquire. The state acquired only the land, not the right to drill below its surface, and the current laws of Pennsylvania give the current owners of these mineral rights full authority to develop their assets.
As PennFuture CEO Jan Jarret puts it, "just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Our state parks are in the crosshairs of the drilling industry. Unless we act right now, we may have many of our most cherished parks filled with massive industrial operations - including drilling rigs, well pads, roads, gathering lines and pipelines and compressor stations, staging areas for equipment and frack water impoundments of several acres or more. The tranquility and solitude of our parks will be shattered by truck traffic, heavy equipment, and drilling itself."
In fact, drilling for natural gas on Pennsylvania public land is already well established. Over 700,000 acres of state forestland is currently available for natural gas drilling. Despite the astonishing fact that over 25% of all Pennsylvania land, roughly 7 million acres, is already under lease by the gas industry, these companies are exploring expanding even further into public land.
Over 38 million people visit one of Pennsylvania's 117 state parks and conservation areas each year. They are a cherished Pennsylvania recreational resource. 61 of these parks lie atop the Marcellus Shale formation and are potential targets of the drilling industry. Jarret suggests that the time to act is now and that legislative action must be taken before the 2012 campaign season is upon us and "political courage is in short supply".
For more information, or to help support efforts to put an end to the prospect of gas drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks, visit PennFuture.