Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Governor Corbett's Changing Position On Governor Rendell's Moratorium On New State Forest Drilling: The Moratorium Lives

Times change and so do positions. When Governor Rendell signed on October 26th, 2010 a moratorium on further leasing of state forestland, then Attorney General Corbett's campaign said that Tom Corbett would rescind the moratorium promptly if elected.

Just a bit more than a month into office, on tuesday, February 23rd, 2011, the Corbett Administration repeated its intention to lift the moratorium and authorize more leasing of state forestland for drilling. "Governor Corbett plans to lift the moratorium imposed in's just a matter of time his spokesman said Tuesday." From there, and the repeated statements indicating the imminent demise of the moratorium , fast forward to yesterday, when the moratorium was still in force and got unexpected support from Governor Corbett himself.

Governor Corbett appeared to move substantially from a position favoring repealing the moratorium to this statement about more leasing for drilling in state forests: "...we're not prepared anytime in the next few years to even discuss that. We have enough going on right now." The Governor suggested that current low gas prices were a reason not to do more state forest leasing at this time. The mention of low prices implicitly raises the possibility of state leasing resuming, when and if gas prices return to higher levels.

In addition to his evolving position on drilling in state forests, the Governor also stated that there were no plans to drill in state parks. Yet, a great deal of state park acreage sits atop mineral rights that the state does not own.  Moreover, Pennsylvania has not enacted legislation that could protect those state parks from gas drilling, though legislation that would do so has been proposed in the General Assembly.  As a consequence, whether drilling happens in state parks is not fully resolved by the wishes of the Governor.

Through all the tugging and pulling, the Rendell gas drilling leasing moratorium in the state forests will be two years old this October 26th. The cynics who predicted that Governor Rendell's action would survive about 80 days have been proven very wrong.

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