House passes PA forest land moratorium bill

    Pennsylvania House members have approved a bill to put a moratorium on leasing more state forest land to natural gas drillers. But the state is in need of money to balance the budget, and the bill could run into trouble in the Republican held Senate.

    Pennsylvania House members have approved a bill to put a moratorium on leasing more state forest land to natural gas drillers. But the state is in need of money to balance the budget, and the bill could run into trouble in the Republican held Senate.

    As part of the current budget deal, Governor Rendell has already agreed to lease more Pennsylvania state forest land over the next several years. But the Governor supports the three-year moratorium passed by the House this week.

    The bill’s sponsor, state Representative Greg Vitali, says he wants the moratorium in place before a new governor takes office.

    “So the real concern in my mind is not what’s going to happen in 2010, I think we know that,” Vitali says, “I think we know another 32,000 acres is going to be leased and that’s it. I think the real problem is what’s gonna happen in 2011 and 2012 when the composition and the governor’s office is gonna shift.”

    Vitali, a Democrat from Delaware County, hopes some kind of budget deal can be struck with the Republican majority.

    A spokesman for the Senate Republicans says the state has enough environmental regulations in place to protect the forest land.

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