Report: Pennsylvania forests impacted by drilling

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 18, 2014 at 10:16 am •  Published: April 18, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A small portion of Pennsylvania state forest land has been impacted by shale gas drilling, but many questions remain about how to manage the politically sensitive issue that is opposed by many residents, according to a new report.

The 268-page Department of Conservation and Natural Resources report issued this week concluded that "shale-gas production on state forest lands is neither benign nor catastrophic" and that there are clearly impacts and trade-offs.

"The question is what trade-offs are acceptable," the report said.

The report found that about 1,486 acres of forest have been converted to various types of drilling-related development since 2008, including roads, well pads, and pipelines, out of about 2.2 million acres in the state forest system. That gas development resulted in 191 infrastructure pads and 104 miles of pipelines.

One group that represents fishermen welcomed the acknowledgement by state officials that drilling in the forests has impacts but said far more details are needed.

"It is critical that we review the impacts found in the monitoring report and determine what level of impact is acceptable," said Katy Dunlap, a water project director with Trout Unlimited. "The acceptable level should be determined, at least in part, by the people who use the forests."

"We do not support additional leasing on state forest lands" that causes surface disturbance "but honestly the devil is in the details," Dunlap said. "Are we going to lose recreational opportunities?"

Cindy Dunn, president of the environmental group PennFuture, welcomed the report but said it "raises more questions than it answers."