PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – On Thursday, Governor Tom Wolf will announce a moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state lands, but will leave nearly 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania’s 1.2 million acres of state forests on the table for drilling.
The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states that 385,400 acres have already been leased for Marcellus Shale drilling and 290,000 acres could be developed through private leases.
Thursday’s order does not stop the Department of Environmental Protection from permitting wells, pipelines, or compressor stations on existing leases, where there is room for as many as 6,000 wells, according to PA DCNR. If all of those wells are drilled and developed, approximately 25,000 forested acres would be converted for roads, pipeline right of ways, and well pads. As of October, PA DCNR had approved more than 1,000 Marcellus wells on state forests and nearly 600 of them — clustered on about 230 well pads — had been drilled.
According to the PA DEP online permit report, the Wolf administration permitted 22 shale gas wells for five counties in just three days from January 21-23. One of those well permits, Chief Oil’s Teel 4H, is within a mile of a cluster of 19 water wells in Dimock, PA that were spoiled by gas drilling in 2008.
Ray Kemble, a Dimock resident with contaminated water said, “Keeping 700,000 acres of our public lands on the table for the drillers is like letting quarterback Tom Brady keep his deflated footballs for the Super Bowl. This is the Big Game and Tom Wolf is blowing it. I have a front row seat.”
The 22 new well permits last week were granted to operators including Chevron, Rex Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Chief Oil, and EQT. Combined, the six drilling companies have been cited for 118 well casing failures by PA DEP, according to a report by Energy Justice Network. Steel and cement well casing failures endanger water supplies across the state.
In his inaugural speech, Wolf addressed anti-fracking demonstrators saying, “To the protesters here today, I say: help me develop these opportunities in a way that is clean, safe and sustainable.”
Allison Petryk, a Susquehanna County resident who was arrested while chanting “Ban fracking now!” during his speech, said, “The compendium of scientific studies that convinced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking shows that it cannot be done safely. Without further action to reclaim already damaged lands, transition to clean energy, and ban shale development across Pennsylvania, Wolf’s words lack substance.”
Energy Justice Network is a national support network for grassroots activists fighting unhealthy energy and waste facilities, primarily coal, natural gas, biomass, and waste incineration. Additional information on our Shale Initiative can be found at www.energyjusticsummer.org