Moratorium on State Lands in Pa. Will Cost Residents Millions of Dollars
This week, newly inaugurated Governor Tom Wolf reversed a previous Executive Order from former Governor Tom Corbett. Wolf’s order fulfills one of his campaign promises to re-instate a moratorium on new leases in Pennsylvania’s state forests, despite the fact that he has claimed:
“I absolutely want to do natural gas,” Wolf said. “I think if we do it right, we can create really good jobs and create industry and sustain our strong economy in Pennsylvania.”
The decision does not take into account an April 2014 Shale Gas Monitoring report issued by the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in which then-DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said, “the breadth and depth of this report demonstrates that shale gas production on state forests is being carefully managed.”
EID previously covered that report and included some key findings worth highlighting (emphasis added):
- “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.” (p. 3)
- “Initial water monitoring results have not identified any significant impacts due to shale-gas development.” (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.” (p. 6)
- “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.” (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.” (p. 9)
In addition to supplying 15 percent of the gas produced in Pennsylvania, which is used across the country to help America strengthen its energy security, the previous leases and rental payments have also been significant for the state General Fund. How significant?
According to a court decision issued earlier this year, the amounts transferred into the General Fund to help balance the Commonwealth budget were $203 million in 2009 and $180 million in 2010. Corbett’s 2014 Executive Order anticipated another $75 million from new leases, despite those leases only being for non-surface use.
That money doesn’t even include the over $285 million in royalty fees that have been collected since 2008. And while the new leases would not have caused surface disturbance on public land, the money was actually slated to help improve these lands, as EID covered previously:
The royalties gained from developing underneath the state forests will help Pennsylvania expand its state land system, a measure that should please conservationists. When lifting the moratorium, Gov. Corbett had this to say about the use of this new revenue stream.
“Future royalties from these leases will be dedicated to expanding our system by acquiring lands with high conservation value and ecological importance, purchasing privately-held subsurface rights for existing DCNR lands and improving state parks and forests.”
It will be interesting to see how he generates the same amount of revenue for the General Fund and improvements to the state forest without the income from shale development.