Debate continues over PA gas drilling

    The Pennsylvania budget deal counts on raising 60 million dollars by granting natural gas leases on state forest land.

    The Pennsylvania budget deal counts on raising 60 million dollars by granting natural gas leases on state forest land. Governor Ed Rendell says the money can be raised by leasing no more than 80,000 acres – but environmental advocates are skeptical.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090929sdshale.mp3]

    Some House Democrats and environmentalists said last week that they were worried the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would have to lease up to 200,000 acres of state forests to raise the needed funds, but Governor Rendell says the actual amount of land would be far below that.

    Rendell says the commonwealth will use seismic imaging to identify especially lucrative plots of land.

    Rendell: When we do that we believe we’ll actually be able to lease less acres. But the value of the acres, because of the seismic imaging, will go up. Because the companies will know that there’s a much greater certainty of a return.

    That promise isn’t soothing the fears of David Masur, the director of advocacy group PennEnvironment.

    He says no matter how much land is involved, it’s wrong to force the DCNR to lease off land for activity he calls “potentially destructive” to Pennsylvania’s state forests.

    Legislative leaders say DCNR officials would be the ones making final decisions on the leasing, though.

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