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More Details Released On DCNR Non-Surface Disturbance Natural Gas Leasing

On Wednesday, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources released more details on how it plans to go about leasing additional State Forest and State Park lands for “non-surface disturbance” natural gas development.

Draft leasing criteria and a draft text for a lease were given to the Natural Gas  Advisory Committee for discussion.  These documents are designed to implement Gov. Corbett’s Executive Order 2014-3 outlining the general ground rules for additional natural gas leasing.

In the draft leasing criteria, DCNR provided definitions for two key terms--

-- Surface Disturbance: The long-term conversion of the park or forest to a non-park or forest use.  Examples include creating or increasing the footprint of infrastructure such as roads, pipelines and well pads.  This definition shall be used for purposes of evaluating whether a non-surface disturbance leasing proposal would result in “additional surface disturbance.”

-- Temporary Disturbance: Impacts to the park or forest itself, the surface or vegetation that are short-term in nature and will allow the resource to be restored to its normal state naturaly.  Examples include seismic activity and air and noise impacts associated with an increase in truck traffic.

DCNR said four principles will guide natural gas development generally--

-- Avoid impacting critical natural and ecological resources through early and comprehensive planning and the utilization of existing disturbances;

-- Minimize potential impacts by apply appropriate buffers, timing restrictions or construction techniques;

-- Mitigate any adverse impacts by restoring sites to park or forest conditions, enhancing wildlife habitat, recreation facilities or removing invasive species infestations; and

-- Monitor to track activities, detect changes, report findings and modify practices where applicable-- practicing adaptive management.

DCNR also outlined review criteria for additional leasing proposals so it can properly assess the ecological, recreational and landscape-level resource impacts.  DCNR will also use its existing Guidelines for Administering Oil and Gas Activity on State Forest Lands as a guide to reviewing proposals.

DCNR has asked Committee members to comment on the documents.

Unfortunately, none of the documents or the agenda or location of the July 30 meeting of DCNR’s Natural Gas  Advisory Committee were posted on the agency’s website.

On July 18 an agreement was announced by parties to the PA Environmental Defense Fund v. Commonwealth challenge to the transfer of monies from the Oil and Gas Fund prohibiting DCNR from actually entering into additional natural gas leases until Commonwealth Court rules on the issue.  It does not prohibit DCNR from developing the process for leasing additional State Forest and State Park land for natural gas development.

The FY 2014-15 state budget counts on $95 million of revenue from additional non-surface impact drilling in State Forests and Parks to remain in balance.

For more general information, visit DCNR’s Natural Gas Development and State Forests webpage.


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