Appalachian Basin

DCNR Report Shows the Benefits of Developing Pa. State Forests

Yesterday, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Ellen Ferretti announced the release of the department’s first Shale Gas Monitoring Report.  In the report’s findings, DCNR found shale development not to have any significant impacts on groundwater, while also minimizing surface impacts in the state forest system.  According to DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti, “the breadth and depth of this report demonstrates that shale gas production on state forests is being carefully managed.”

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has 1.5 million acres of state forest that overlie the Marcellus shale, and currently there are 673,000 acres leased for Marcellus shale development.  These areas include both areas which required DCNR-issued leases and areas where the minerals were privately held.  To ensure surface disturbances were kept to a minimum, DCNR placed lease restrictions in regards to surface development.

“Modern shale-gas leases restrict surface disturbance in sensitive areas and limit overall surface disturbance to approximately 2 percent of the acreage within the lease tract.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 3)

Of those areas that have already been developed, the DCNR has provided water testing as well as providing continuous water monitoring at 10 locations in multiple watersheds.  The findings of these tests showed no significant impact to water quality.

  • “Initial water monitoring results have not identified any significant impacts due to shale-gas development.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 6)
  • “This is based on one round of field chemistry sampling throughout the shale-gas region and over a year of operation for 10 continuous monitoring devices in key watersheds.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 6)

Since 1947, when Pennsylvania began leasing state forests, the Commonwealth has generated a steady stream of income from oil and gas leases and royalties.  From 1947 to 2008, Pennsylvania received over $153 million from leasing and royalties from the oil and gas industry alone.  The Shale Gas Monitoring Report found in just four years, leasing and royalties grew to $735,910,166 – representing a stunning 279 percent increase in revenue for Pennsylvania.

  • “The shale-gas period (through 2012, for the purposes of this report) has provided $582,250,644 in revenue.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 10)
  • “The pre-shale-gas period of oil and gas activity provided a total income to the Commonwealth of approximately $153,659,522.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 10)
  • “Royalty income is just beginning to come to DCNR from the hundreds of new shale-gas wells on state forest land.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 10)
  • “Steady revenue growth from gas extraction is expected to continue for the next decade as the full development of the leases comes to a conclusion.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 10)

In addition to limited surface disturbance, revenue for the Commonwealth and no significant impact to water quality, Marcellus Shale development is also providing many other benefits to Pennsylvania and the nation.

  • “There has been a marked decrease in several major air pollutants, such as sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide. This is due, in part, to the increased use of natural gas for power generation, the shutdown of several major facilities, and the installation of air pollution control equipment.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 7)
  • “Approximately 15 percent of all shale gas produced in Pennsylvania comes from state forest lands. This gas is sold and distributed across the eastern and Midwestern United States to service energy markets on a daily basis.” (Shale-Gas Monitoring Report, p. 9)

It is clear Marcellus Shale development is a providing numerous benefits for the Commonwealth, from improving air quality to providing significant public revenues.  This report reiterates that shale development is carefully managed by the DCNR and will continue to provide not only environmental benefits, but also help keep revenues strong, which in turn benefits all Pennsylvanians.


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