Governor’s Order Shields Parks From Surface Disturbance

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has issued an executive order prohibiting leasing for natural gas development in state parks and forests that would result in additional long-term surface disturbance. The order allows natural gas to be extracted from deep beneath the surface only when there will be no additional long-term disturbances on state forest and park lands.

Further, the order will only allow gas to be extracted horizontally through wells located on adjacent private lands or previously leased areas of the state forest. The governor noted that specific areas and acreage will be analyzed by reviewing interest from oil and gas operators who can access the gas through horizontal drilling without additional disturbance on the surface of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) lands.

“With this executive order, I am directing that the commonwealth maintain a moratorium on any additional gas leasing of DCNR lands that involves long-term surface disturbance, such as placing well pads, roads, or pipelines in newly leased areas,” Corbett said. “This balanced approach will ensure that the special characteristics and habitats of DCNR lands are conserved and protected, and will also provide for historic investments in conservation programs, our schools, and quality health care, without raising taxes on Pennsylvanians.”

Future royalties from DCNR leases will be dedicated to expanding Pennsylvania’s park and forest system by acquiring lands with high conservation value and ecological importance, purchasing privately held subsurface rights for existing DCNR lands, and improving state parks and forests. The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, one of the largest economic advocacy groups in the commonwealth, supported the governor’s action.