Friday, 5 April 2013

DCNR holds closed-door meeting about gas drilling plans on "Clarence Moore" lands

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture)

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) conducted a closed-door meeting today with a group of hand-picked "local stakeholders" to discuss a proposal by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation to drill in the Loyalsock State Forest's "Clarence Moore" lands. Despite repeated requests by PennFuture, the DCNR has denied the public any opportunity to comment on development alternatives, and specifically excluded PennFuture and several other interested parties from today's meeting.

At issue are the Clarence Moore lands, a 25,000 acre area of great ecological and recreational value where, due to an unusual provision in its deed, the DCNR has exclusive control of most of the surface area, even though Anadarko Petroleum and others own the oil and gas rights. Because of its extraordinary powers, the DCNR has the opportunity to prevent development on most of the Clarence Moore lands, and to fulfill its legal duty to protect, conserve, and enhance State Forest lands for the benefit of Pennsylvanians and future generations.

"After months of trying to engage the DCNR on this issue, we are finally receiving communications from Secretary Allan," said Mark Szybist , staff attorney for PennFuture. "According to Secretary Allan,the Clarence Moore situation is 'unique and very complicated.' This may be true, but the law is clear: the Commonwealth may not grant Anadarko surface rights unless the DCNR determines that doing so is in the public interest. And the DCNR cannot determine what the public interest is without seeking input from the public at large through public hearings and a public comment period. The DCNR may not pick and choose its public."

State Representatives Ron Miller (R-York County) and Greg Vitali (D-Delaware County), chairmen of the House Environmental Services and Energy Committee, attended the April 4 meeting.

Link to letter to Secy. Allan from environmental groups representing 100,000 citizens:

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with staff in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Wilkes-Barre. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the "state's leading environmental advocacy organization;" the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization "one of the 10 most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling;" and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture "the commonwealth's main environmental advocate."