Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) has launched a campaign to prevent Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks. The campaign was unveiled by John H. Quigley, a special adviser to PennFuture and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

The campaign comes just days after DCNR agreed to assist in an investigation by the National Park Service to determine whether any Marcellus Shale gas wells on state forest land were improperly approved (see Shale Daily, Sept. 28). Early this year Gov. Tom Corbett opened Pennsylvania's parks and forests to leasing for gas development, reversing former Gov. Ed Rendell's executive order banning leases on the 800,000 acres managed by the DCNR (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23; Oct. 27, 2010).

"Over half of our state parks -- 61 -- lie over the Marcellus Shale fields," said Quigley. "And because the Commonwealth doesn't own the mineral rights on most state park land, they are potentially wide open for drilling." About 700,000 acres, or around one-third of state forest land, is available for natural gas drilling and "a quarter of all Pennsylvania land -- seven million acres -- is under lease by the natural gas industry."

However, he said, the state's parks are "significant economic drivers, returning almost $10 to local economies for every dollar of state investment, generating over $818 million in local sales, and more than 10,500 local jobs."

If drilling is permitted in state parks, PennFuture has called on the state legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection to develop stringent rules for well permits, which would include a 300-foot setback from the boundary of a state park, special pre-development studies and public hearing requirements for any proposal drilling activity that might impact a park. It also is asking for "significant" impact fees to drill in parks, Quigley said.