Wolf bans additional gas drilling in state parks, forests

PHILADELPHIA (WHTM) – Proving that the pen is mightier than the pipe, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order banning additional gas drilling in state parks and state forests.

He said people need to be able to relax in those public lands.

“It comes from a deep-seated and profound respect for what we have here,” Wolf said from Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia. “These state lands are intended to be refuges, places where people can go an enjoy natural beauty.”

The drilling moratorium is not new. It was originally signed in 2010 under Governor Ed Rendell. Last Memorial Day, Governor Tom Corbett announced he was lifting the ban.

Wolf fulfilled a campaign pledge by reinstating it, a no-brainer according to environmental groups like the Sierra Club.

“It’s an important step toward protecting public health and the environment from the impacts of fracking,” said Joanne Kilgour, executive director of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club. “Public opinion polls show that Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support it.”

But not everyone is cheering.

“I saw one quote that says everyone in Pennsylvania should be happy over this. No they shouldn’t,” said Gene Barr, head of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

Pro-drilling and pro-business groups say Wolf’s turning his back on tens of millions of dollars in a tight budget year when surface impacts of drilling are minimal.

“In our view, the shortsightedness of this is that with today’s technology you can put the well pad elsewhere and drill directionally underneath lands. What happens with a blanket ban like this is you forgo all that,” Barr said.

Kilgour says the concept of a “no surface impact” is a myth.

“We see increases in infrastructure build out, truck traffic, roads, pipelines, forest fragmentations and serious impacts that can happen regardless of how close you’re placing well pads to the properties,” she said.

Before signing his executive order that will end new leases in 220 state parks and 20 state forests, Wolf went out of his way to say he still supports gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

But business leaders question that given Thursday’s ban and Wolf’s repeated push for a severance tax on drilling in addition to current impact fee.

“That’s not supporting the industry,” Barr said.

 

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