Marcellus Shale

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Leasing for Natural Gas

The question of whether or not to lease Pennsylvania state-owned land and the minerals beneath it for natural gas development is a debate we have seen crop up time and again. Notwithstanding this, decisions by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and others to lease their lands, have met with little opposition as most of those individuals residing in the Marcellus Shale region are in support of development. I recently attended a presentation at Lycoming College by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) where they explained their rationale behind leasing the land they are commissioned to “protect, conserve, and enhance” at Rose Valley Lake in Lycoming County and what this will mean for future projects and operations.

The question of whether or not to lease the PFBC land, was one executive director John Arway felt germaine to the commission’s role to conserve–or make wise decisions about how to best use the land to everyone’s benefit.

A History of Leasing

The natural gas industry is not the first industry to approach the PFBC about leasing their natural resources. Back in the 1970s, then PFBC executive director, Ralph Abele, made the decision to lease rights for commercial sand and gravel dredging of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers. It too required a weighing of risks and benefits, and the decision to move forward with the project brought over $1 million per year to the agency in the form of royalties. This previous decision by one of Arway’s mentors weighed heavily in his decision to lease state lands today. Arway discusses this here and in the following video. The video also discusses how much land the Commonwealth has available for leasing.

It’s Irresponsible Not to Lease

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The lease at Rose Valley Lake in Lycoming County and similar ones at Donegal Lake in Westmoreland County and Dutch Fork Lake in Washington County are non-surface right agreements. This means that while the PBFC has leased their mineral rights for natural gas development, they will not have any rigs or equipment on their land. The well sites will be located on other properties within the drilling unit, and the natural gas located under PFBC land will be removed through the process of horizontal drilling.

Arway and others within the organization felt it would be irresponsible not to lease, especially when it is possible to recover the resource and benefit financially without having to impact the surface of the Commonwealth owned lands.

Arway discusses this and the similar leases at other locations in the following video.

Let’s Talk Figures

Like many other programs in the state, the PFBC is currently feeling the impacts of budget cuts. Through the passing of Act 13 the commission will receive $1 million a year to use for the review of natural gas related permits. While that money will be a big help, it has very specific allocations and cannot be used for other projects.

The money the PFBC receives from leasing and royalty payments on the other hand can be used to fund repairs at high hazard dams, which is exactly how the commission plans to use it. These are lakes which have a need for significant repairs they otherwise would not receive–at least not anytime soon. During the question and answer session, Arway also expressed to residents of Rose Valley, the PFBC would be willing to listen to their concerns and allocate some of this money towards repairs there as well.

Here is the breakdown of the money PFBC will receive, followed by a video of Arway explaining the lease a little further.

As can be seen from the presentation, the decision to lease the PFBC’s mineral rights for the development of natural gas was not a hasty one. It was a decision that took careful thought and much discussion, but at the end of the day, Arway and his fellow commissioners believe this resource can be extracted safely without compromising their roles to protect and conserve these lands. The money obtained through this endeavor will benefit fishermen and boaters across the state and will be used for the betterment of the environment we all love.

As someone who still has family living at Rose Valley Lake and going there for as long as I can remember,  I am excited for this decision and eager to to see the improvements that will be made possible because of it and other development opportunities.

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