HARRISBURG, May 5 – A bill supported by state Rep. John Siptroth, D-Monroe/Pike, that would put a three-year moratorium on leasing additional state forestland for natural gas drilling passed the House of Representatives Tuesday. “It’s time to take a time out from allowing our public lands to be used by the natural gas industry,” Siptroth said. “The industry has many impacts on state forests. It uses millions of gallons of water to drill each well. It clears several acres of land per well. And it has to build infrastructure around each site.” Siptroth said the Poconos relies a lot on the recreation industry, and many local residents enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor areas. “One accident could change all that,” Siptroth said.
House Bill 2235 also would require a comprehensive environmental impact study by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources within the first two years of the moratorium, and a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study in year three on the environmental, economic and societal impacts of drilling in state forests. The bill also would give DCNR sole discretion to determine which land should be leased for gas drilling after the moratorium ends.
The state has already leased 692,000 acres of state forestland of the 1.5 million acres it owns above the Marcellus Shale to natural gas drilling companies. To date, only nine gas wells have been dug on state forestland, but as many as several thousand are expected in the coming years. Siptroth has suggested a severance tax on natural gas drilling or a similar fee — which other major natural gas-producing states levy, but Pennsylvania budget negotiators refused to consider last year — would be an appropriate revenue option instead of leasing more land. The bill now goes to the state Senate for its consideration. The bill would not affect state land currently under lease to gas companies or private property.
(Source: Office of State Rep. John Siptroth)