PEC Responds to remarks by DCED Secretary Alan Walker

The Honorable Tom Corbett
Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Dear Governor Corbett:

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is dismayed at the remarks of DCED Secretary Alan Walker as reported in Capitolwire this morning, in which he apparently expressed support for unrestrained drilling of state forest land to generate additional income for our state.  This statement runs counter to the express recommendations of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission – of which Secretary Walker was a member; the standing Governor’s Order prohibiting additional drilling of state forest land without study of impacts to ecological and public resources; and our state’s longstanding heritage of sound conservation.  You were witness to that very heritage last week on your sojourn through northeastern Pennsylvania.

Our state forests and parks represent more than a century of public and private investment — dating back to the birth of the modern conservation movement which started in Pennsylvania with Goddard, Rothrock and Pinchot.  Our state forests and parks are already tremendous economic drivers, whether through our nationally-recognized sustainable forestry industry or through tourism and recreation (Pennsylvania’s second largest industry).  Both of these are threatened by further drilling on state forest lands.  The Department of Conservation & Natural Resources own website states: “no additional leasing involving surface disturbance can occur without significantly altering the ecological integrity and wild character of our State Forest system.”

To use our state forests as an expedient means to generate new revenues, when there are a multitude of options including but not limited to a severance tax, is wholly inappropriate.  These lands belong to the people of Pennsylvania.

The proliferation of unconventional drilling, as well as the significant associated infrastructure and activity, would be devastating to our state forests.  The impacts would last several generations, and many unique natural and heritage areas could be lost forever.  To do so in light of the fact that we have not even begun to assess what the impacts of current leasing activities will be is wrong.  It should be said that many of the economic liabilities currently facing our state are the result of past resource extraction and poor environmental practice.  Secretary Walker’s suggestion ignores the lessons that history has taught us and for which we are still paying a heavy price.

We call on you to ensure that our irreplaceable state forest lands are protected.


Paul M. King, President