Public sessions planned on state-forest gas drilling

Workers man a rig for Anadarko Petroleum. In the Loyalsock forest, the company owns or leases mineral rights.
Workers man a rig for Anadarko Petroleum. In the Loyalsock forest, the company owns or leases mineral rights. (ANDREW MAYKUTH / Staff)
Posted: April 24, 2013

Pennsylvania conservation officials, who are in the hot seat over a proposal to open Loyalsock State Forest for Marcellus Shale gas development, have agreed to hold public informational sessions on drilling plans for the popular recreational area.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will participate in a free, web-based seminar Thursday on gas-development options for the state forest, which is in Lycoming, Bradford, and Sullivan Counties near Williamsport. The department also says it is planning a public meeting on the forest at an unspecified date.

The department came under fire this month after conducting an invitation-only session for legislators and local officials to explain complex negotiations under way over drilling in the forest.

Spokeswoman Chris Novak said DCNR's decision to hold a public informational meeting on the Loyalsock was aimed at "putting the situation into context." The format for the meeting is undetermined.

But the agency's position seems to have evolved after it initially struck a more defiant approach with environmental groups that have mounted a campaign to block Loyalsock drilling.

State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), a member of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, plans a news conference Tuesday in Harrisburg with environmental organizations to step up pressure on the state to protect the forest.

Vitali said he spoke with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. officials recently about their plans there.

"It's really clear if they do what they want to do," he said, "they're really going to chew that area up pretty good."

The controversy involves tracts in the Loyalsock that the state has owned for many years, but for which it does not own mineral rights. Anadarko controls the subsurface rights on those parcels.

The state typically would have little control over drilling activity on land where it does not own mineral rights. But Anadarko has uncertain surface access to about 18,780 acres of the land because of an unusual deed restriction.

The Loyalsock situation is complicated because Anadarko owns the mineral rights to about 7,000 acres there for which it has uncontested surface access and where it could, by rights, drill. DCNR says it is trying to negotiate a development plan that takes all the land into account.

Currently, the state leases about 660,000 acres of the 2.2-million-acre state forest for gas production.

The state does not own the subsurface rights on an additional 315,000 acres of state forests. It would receive no royalties for those minerals.

For DCNR's fact sheet on Loyalsock drilling: http://bit.ly/ZgNrkR. For information on Thursday's webinar, sponsored by Penn State Extension, call 570-320-4429.


Contact Andrew Maykuth

at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @Maykuth.

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