In a March 2 letter to Gov. Tom Corbett, a group of 80 Pennsylvania state representatives said they would hold up royalty revenues if the state leased additional forest land for natural gas development.

While the governor can lease state forests without legislative approval, only the General Assembly can move proceeds from those leases out of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, the representatives noted.

“We the undersigned will not support legislation that transfers any money out of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund which accrued from additional leases of state forest land,” they wrote.

Pennsylvania has already leased nearly half of the 1.5 million acres of state forest that overlies the Marcellus Shale formation. Then-Gov. Ed Rendell placed a moratorium on further leasing last October (see Shale Daily, Oct. 27, 2010).

The lawmakers said additional leasing would hurt local economies, particularly the ecotourism and forestry industries, but they said they were not calling for a moratorium on drilling on previously leased lands.

The Corbett administration recently rolled back Rendell-era regulations on permitting in state forests, but as of yet it has not overturned the moratorium on new leasing (see Shale Daily, Feb. 23).