State Rep. Greg Vitali



Vitali bill would halt leasing of state forests for Marcellus gas drilling


HARRISBURG, Jan. 28 State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, has introduced a bill that would put a five-year moratorium on leasing additional state forest land for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.


Vitali said House Bill 2235 is a response to the revelation of an agreement between budget negotiators to raise another $180 million for the 2010-11 budget by leasing additional state forest land for gas drilling.


"Our state forests can't be viewed as a cash cow," Vitali said. "We shouldn't lease another square inch until we fully evaluate the impact of drilling."


Vitali's legislation would give the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sole discretion after the moratorium's end Dec. 31, 2015 to determine if state forests can withstand additional natural gas exploration.

The State Forest Natural Gas Lease Moratorium Act also would require DCNR to issue a report every year to the governor and legislature about the effect of natural gas exploration and drilling on state forests. It would consider impacts on water, soil and air quality, plants and wildlife, tourism, fishing and hunting.


According to DCNR, three wells in state forests are producing gas and another 100 are currently being drilled. DCNR says several thousand wells could be drilled in state forests.


"My legislation allows us to take a step back and analyze the impacts of drilling," Vitali said. "It also gives the experts in DCNR the power to determine if more public land should be leased."


Vitali's bill has already garnered considerable support with 30 representatives co-sponsoring the measure.


About 1.5 million acres of state forest is above the Marcellus Shale, a mile-deep formation under most of Pennsylvania that officials believe is rich in natural gas. About 692,000 acres of state forest have already been leased for natural gas drilling.