New DEP nominee gets a hearing

    With newly minted Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s first budget address a week away some lawmakers worry the Republican will lease more state land to the gas industry.

    Corbett has to close a $4 billion budget gap. He opposes any new taxes, including a tax on the burgeoning natural gas industry. And he’s already reversed a policy put in place under former Governor Ed Rendell that would have made it difficult to lease more state land.

    State Representative Greg Vitali is one of 70 lawmakers who signed a letter asking Corbett not to lease any more state forest land to gas drilling.

    “The land that remains is environmentally valuable, it includes old growth forests, fragile ecosystems, habitats for rare and endangered species,” said Vitali.  “We really shouldn’t be using our forests as a cash cow to balance our budget.”

    There are about 20 gas-producing wells operating on state forest lands today. Calls to Governor Corbett’s office were not returned.

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