Exec Clarifies Gas Drilling Plans on State Land
The acting secretary of the state agency overseeing state parks and forests is launching an outreach effort to parties concerned about a controversial plan for natural gas drilling at the Loyalsock State Forest in Northeast Pennsylvania.
At the helm of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for just over a month, Ellen Ferretti of Dallas said Wednesday (July 24 that no timetable has been set for a decision on a proposal by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to drill on 25,000 acres in this state forest where it owns subsurface mineral rights.
"We will be reaching out more," said Ferretti during a morning meeting of DCNR's advisory council.
She followed through on that statement with a separate meeting Wednesday to discuss Loyalsock issues with representatives of the Keystone Trails Association, Audubon Pennsylvania, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Sierra Club, Forest Coalition and Responsible Drilling Alliance.
Environmentalists say drilling would harm the headwaters and environmentally important portions of the Rock Run exceptional value stream and have called for statewide hearings.
Anadarko approached the agency last year about drilling on land where it owns subsurface mineral rights as well as smaller tracts where it owns subsurface rights and the right to enter the land surface of the state forest. Another firm, Southwestern Energy Co., owns a share of the subsurface rights.
The state has a moratorium on leasing additional forest land for drilling since 2010, but the Anadarko proposal falls outside that because of the subsurface rights issue.
DCNR doesn't have complete control of surface rights throughout the 25,000 acres at stake, but can strongly influence and ensure access that minimizes the impact that any drilling has there, said Ferretti.
The agency said its priorities include minimizing the drilling impact on land surfaces, the 27-mile Old Logger's Path Trail, the Rock Run headwaters and wetland and special habitat areas.
The agency plans to discuss those priorities with Anadarko and Southwestern Energy soon.
DCNR held a local public meeting on the Loyalsock issue early last month that was chaired by Feretti's predecessor, Richard Allan. He was forced to resign shortly after by Gov. Tom Corbett over a remark in an office email.
Ferretti was deputy DCNR secretary for parks and forestry before being named acting secretary by Corbett. The governor hasn't made a permanent nomination for secretary.