The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) today applauded Governor Rendell’s signing of an Executive Order prohibiting additional leasing of State Park or Forest land for oil and gas development.
“The Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, under the leadership of Secretary John Quigley, has done a courageous job of managing mandated leasing of State Forest land over the last two years” said Don Welsh, President and CEO of PEC. “Unfortunately the focus on generating revenue trumped the landmark conservation legacy of our state lands – most of which reflect more than a century of public and private investment and bipartisan effort to restore our natural resources and public places. We have lost sight of that tremendous legacy too soon in the face of budget shortfalls.”
More than 700,000 acres of State Forest land are available for leasing for natural gas development. In fact last year’s state budget included mandated revenue target levels from such leasing, with the majority of the revenues being used to help balance the state’s General Fund.
“Resource development on state lands should be driven by science and sound management, not solely by the need for revenue” commented Welsh.
Today the Governor also called for the General Assembly to meet its pledge to pass a natural gas severance tax in the current legislative session. PEC supports a fair and reasonable severance tax that directs the majority of its revenue to protect and restore the environment, help communities address impacts from escalating extraction activity, and to support the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation & Natural Resources as they manage natural gas operations.
Said Welsh: “The General Assembly and Governor must meet their commitment in law; the options and opportunities are there if they’re willing to make the effort. They owe it to the citizens of Pennsylvania to do what it takes to see this through.”