Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rendell Lease Ban May Stay, May Go

One Candidate of Pennsylvania Governor says he will keep a ban on selling state forest land to gas drilling companies and the other says he will have to review it. The Rendell Administration has leased out more than 130 thousand acres of state forest land over the past two years and now that he is about to leave office Rendell has signed an executive order to not sell any more. Only about 20 wells are active in the forests right now, but Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley says thousands could be operating in the next few years. The order does nothing to prevent those wells from being drilled, it only prevents more land from being leased. Quigley says the forests have reached a breaking point. “In a perfect world we would not have done the last lease sale, but the facts are that we did,” says Quigley, “We did it with the absolute minimum impact, and did it in a way that we think preserves the sustainability of the forest. But clearly we have reached the point where we can’t go any further.” When Rendell leaves office in January the ban will remain in place but the next governor could decide to overturn it. Democrat Dan Onorato says he will keep Rendell’s order in effect, and urge the development of more private land. He also supports a tax on gas pulled from the Marcellus Shale formation. Republican Tom Corbett would overturn the moratorium. Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley says, “It’s something that is generating revenue for the state, and could generate more. When Tom Corbett’s elected governor, he’ll sit down with his new secretary of DCNR and DEP, and examine what could produce revenue for the state. The leases generate money for the state, and Corbett would look for additional ways to gain revenue from state forests.” Corbett does not support the idea of a tax on shale gas.

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