State (PA) Reaps $582M Windfall on Gas Drilling in State Forests
6 April 2014
By Adam Smeltz, Staff Reporter
Adam Smeltz 412-380-5676
Private natural gas and oil wells in state forests pumped $582
million into Pennsylvania budgets in five years, more than
tripling the combined revenue of the prior 60 years, state
forestry officials said on Wednesday.
Royalty and lease payments for 2008 through 2012 came largely from
191 new drilling pads that tap into Marcellus and other shale gas
reserves, according to the first Shale-Gas Monitoring Report from
the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The revenue matches Gov. Tom Corbett's hopes for natural gas
development on public lands, said his energy executive, Patrick
Henderson. He said Corbett projects about $120 million in ongoing
royalties for the 2014-15 budget year and wants to raise $75
million more through new forest leases that would not be permitted
to disrupt additional public surface area.
“It's been a significant, significant benefit to the commonwealth.
It's $120 million in revenue that wasn't there three, four years
ago,” Henderson said. The state budget approaches $30 billion a
Income from state forest wells supports the Pennsylvania general
fund and the DCNR, which began the forest monitoring program in
2010 when shale exploration gained speed.
A 15-worker team approved by Corbett keeps track of gas
development and its effects on state forests, which account for
about 15 percent of all shale gas produced in Pennsylvania.
The team's findings help DCNR officials revise forest management
practices as gas extraction proliferates on public land, said
department spokeswoman Christina Novak. About 568 wells were
drilled in Pennsylvania forests by December 2013, with the state
projecting an eventual total of 3,000.
“Everything you see in terms of current impacts is going to be
multiplied,” said PennFuture CEO Cindy Dunn. The Harrisburg-based
environmental group opposes additional gas drilling on state
Then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed a moratorium in October 2010 that
suspended the writing of new leases for gas drilling in state
forests. The moratorium remains in effect, and Dunn said observers
have yet to discover the full impacts of existing leases and
The 268-page DCNR report released on Wednesday covers mostly
preliminary findings. Novak said reviewers so far have found no
significant impact on water quality.
But the report notes 308 violation notices that state
environmental regulators wrote over state forest gas extraction
from 2008 through 2012. Shale gas production on the lands is
“neither benign nor catastrophic,” DCNR Deputy Director Daniel
Devlin said in the report.
“Oftentimes, trends, or effects, are not evident for years or
decades,” he wrote.
Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition
industry group, underscored the financial impact of drilling. He
said the industry has generated more than $2 billion in taxes in
“It's a false choice to suggest we can grow our economy or produce
clean-burning natural gas. This report further confirms that
fact,” Windle said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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