Corbett sees no more leases for gas drilling in PA’s state parks, forests

Written by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 10:19 am.

HARRISBURG — State officials are not considering leasing any additional acres of state forestland or parks for gas drilling, Gov. Tom Corbett told reporters Monday.

Asked about rumors that have circulated since John Norbeck was dismissed as state parks director earlier this month, Mr. Corbett vigorously denied that state parks soon could see drilling activity

“Can we put that to rest? I don’t know where that came from,” he said during a news conference about drilling impact fees collected this fall. “There was a moratorium put on the state forests. We haven’t lifted that. We haven’t even talked about lifting that. We haven’t talked about drilling in the state parks.”

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after his dismissal, Mr. Norbeck cited “philosophical differences” between himself and the Corbett administration regarding mining and drilling in state parks.

Mr. Corbett said he never stated he would consider leasing land in the state’s 117 public parks, which received a national award under Mr. Norbeck’s stewardship.

More than 700,000 acres of state forestland — which include mineral rights held by the state and by private citizens — currently are available for gas drilling.

The governor noted the ongoing activity in state forests, saying Pennsylvania would be “competing against” itself if additional forest leasing was considered amid the low natural gas prices.

“It can be done, it can be done safely, but we’re not prepared anytime in the next few years to even discuss that,” Mr. Corbett said. “We have enough going on right now.”