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Friday, April 23, 2010

“Don’t let the drillers destroy Woodsy’s home.”

Moratorium on drilling in Pennsylvania forests likely to pass House, but faces rough waters in Republican Senate


April 22, 2010, 6:07PM

Woodsy Owl - with his message “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” - was fledged on the first Earth Day in 1970. Forty years later, his image has been thrust into the feathers flying over Marcellus Shale gas drilling. On Thursday, someone in a Woodsy Owl costume stood in the Capitol Rotunda next to a sign that read “Don’t let the drillers destroy Woodsy’s home.”

Pennsylvania’s forests are home to more than just owls: They also harbor one of the largest and highest-quality natural gas reserves on the planet, and that has put them at the center of debates over the state budget.

Although there has been gas drilling on state forest land for 70 years, never has it been so prevalent or so profitable. Last year the state made $128 million leasing 32,000 acres of state forest for Marcellus exploration, and the current state budget calls for another round of leases to raise $112 million.

Those leases contain stringent environmental standards, but Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, thinks enough is enough. Eventually there could be as many as 6,000 wells on the land leased already.

“We need to step back and analyze the impact the industry will have on our state forests,” said Vitali, who has sponsored a bill (HB-2235) that would impose a five-year moratorium on drilling on state lands. More...

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