Via an executive order, Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order #2015-03 which on first glance appears to stop all drilling on state lands and forests.
To those who have broken out the champagne and are toasting the Governor’s actions you may want to put the cork back into the bottle and read the actual executive order.
There are two important items in the Executive order:
The first is in the “whereas”:
WHEREAS, DCNR has concluded that additional leasing of State Forest land or State Park land for oil and gas development would jeopardize DCNR’s ability to fulfill its legislative duty to conserve and maintain these public natural resources, and to sustain its FSC forest certification;
Key Words: ADDITIONAL LEASING
Wolf’s executive order does not apply to EXISTING DCNR leases only ADDITIONAL (i.e. future) leases.
According to a DCNR powerpoint: Impacts of Leasing Additional State Forest for Natural Gas Development, approximately 700,000 acres of state forest land have been leased or severed. Severed lands are not available to leasing by DCNR, these are areas which are held by private owners who own the subsurface rights. See maps below.
The second item is in the order itself:
DCNR Oil and Gas Leasing. As of the date of this Executive Order, to protect the lands of the Commonwealth that are held in trust for its citizens and for future generations, and subject to future advice and recommendations made by DCNR, no State Park and State Forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development.
Key Words: … no State Park and State Forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development.
This means private parties which own subsurface rights are still allowed to lease.
What the executive order doesn’t do is to stop all drilling activities in state forests and lands. Existing DCNR leases are allowed to continue, as are those leases held currently by private parties and any future leasing by private parties.
Wolf gets his cake by banning future DCNR leases, and he gets to eat it by allowing existing DCNR leases and those of private parties to continue.
© 2015 by Dory Hippauf