Drilling in state parks

    Pennsylvania’s state parks are home to pristine forestland, trout streams, and now, natural gas wells.

    Pennsylvania’s state parks sit upon some of the richest natural gas resources in the country. Oil companies are starting to tap in. 

    Many of Pennsylvania’s state parks were established 50 or 60 years ago, when the state did not anticipate that the underlying Marcellus Shale would become a major drilling target for natural gas. And so it didn’t buy the subsurface rights.

    Novak: A lot of the land was purchased without the mineral rights because we could buy more land that way.

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    Chris Novak is the spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. She says the approach has left state parks open to drilling, because sub-surface owners have a right to access their minerals. Goddard State Park in western Pennsylvania is the first to host several natural gas wells within its boundaries. Novak says so far they haven’t disrupted recreation in the park.

    Novak: When we don’t own the mineral rights we do try to work with the companies to make sure that they limit the impacts on the surface. That’s frequently possible, but not always.

    Rhoads: The drilling activity that goes on anywhere is pretty much a temporary inconvenience.

    Stephen Rhoads is the president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association. He says companies will try to return sites to their original state after a well and pipeline are put in. Environmentalists say drilling will undoubtedly interfere with the mission of the parks. Jan Jarrett is the president of Penn Future.

    Jarrett: It would create air pollution from all the truck traffic. Noise. I mean, it fundamentally would negatively impact a visitor’s experience to the state park to have to put up with that sort of stuff when that’s not what state parks are for.

    Pennsylvania currently leases state forest land for drilling. Some of the money it earns from that will go toward purchasing mineral rights under state parks.

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