Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Drilling In Loyalsock State Forest Is Another Reason Why PA Support For Gas Drilling Drops Below 50%

How does support for gas production in Pennsylvania decline to a plurality of 49% approving and 40% disapproving, as measured by the recent poll done by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College? 

 In addition to no drilling tax and too many accidents and spills, driving down support is the belief that no place is off limits to gas drilling, not parks, not even the Loyalsock State Forest, a spectacular, wild place.

The fate of the Loyalsock State Forest is becoming a test of whether there are limits on gas drilling that regulation or the gas industry itself voluntarily would impose.  People from many walks of life and with divergent political opinions are all rallying to stop gas drilling in the Loyalsock.
http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/06/03/drilling-opponents-pack-dcnr-meeting-on-loyalsock-state-forest/.

More than 250 Pennsylvanians took their time to attend a public hearing in Williamsport, Lycoming County, where gas drilling on private lands is also widely practiced and has considerable support.  But not one of those attending testified at a public hearing in support of gas drilling in the Loyalsock. The contrast is stark between opinion about drilling in one of Pennsylvania's most special state forests and the desire of waiting private landowners who are eager for gas drilling to be done on their properties. 

The gas industry must respect public opinion, whether it likes that opinion or not, if it is to maintain the slim support it now has.  Indeed, it cannot afford to win battles like the Loyalsock, if it wishes to avoid losing the public opinion war.

8 comments:

  1. Concerned ScientistJune 5, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    I was at a conference recently where, to my surprise, many representatives of companies drilling wells in PA strongly supported both a severance tax and strong regulations. One guy said it was "stupid" for PA not to have a severance tax. Texas and Alaska, certainly not blue states, both have large severance taxes. One reason for Sarah Palin's popularity in Alaska was that she actually sent checks from the surplus in severance tax revenues to citizens of the state (about $1000 if I remember correctly).

    Most companies want strong regulations so that they don't get penalized for doing the right thing. Many companies will do the right thing regardless but in the absence of strong regulation, some will cut corners and start a race to the bottom. When one company has problems it reflects badly on the entire industry.

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    1. I have not seen any company recently lead the charge for a drilling tax in PA. Not one. Talk is cheap. And this industry collectively has massive political muscle. But they don't flex it in the manner you suggest in this comment...at least not in PA. They would be smart to make the points in your comment much more than conference talking points. I wish they would.

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  2. Help me understand your logic here. I do not see how sentiment surrounding development in Loyalsock state forest has anything to do with overall support for oil & gas development. Who besides the owner of the mineral rights in question would show up at a hearing to support drilling in the forest? Also the issue around development in the Loyalsock SF is almost never factually discussed. The issue is real property rights not lack of forest protection. The law in Pennsylvania is clear, the owners of the subsurface oil gas & minerals have the right to develop them. Overall impact to the State forests should have been assessed at the time that State owned resources were leased. Why should the state lease rights in the Tioga & Tiadhagton state forest and not allow the private mineral owners to develop their resources under the Loyalsock? It is absurd to claim that the oil and gas company needs to ignore the legal structure of the commonwealth and respect public opinion about the loyalsock SF while the state leases its own minerals in equally as spectacular forests. That is akin to suggesting that GE should ignore the actual US tax code and just pay 35% corporate tax because, well ..... just because.

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    1. My point is not a legal argument. It is a point about public opinion and democracy. Drilling companies don't have to drill everywhere gas exists, whether that gas is privately or publicly owned. Drilling companies should have a decent respect for the opinion of the communities in which they operate and the states that host them. And that is especially true when they may not agree with it entirely. At this point support for drilling in PA is below 50%. It will only keep falling if those in the industry or who support it don't understand the points made here. A bed is being made and it may not be fun to lie in.

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    2. My points are 1) it is not correct to infer lack of support for drilling by a lack of public comment in favor of drilling in the state forest, and 2) drilling in the Loyalsock state forest is a legal matter and I posit that you will find public support for protecting real property rights overwhelming. As such, I do not follow your logic in linking public opinion polls to the Loyalsock S.F. issue.

      Further, I respectfully disagree with your assertion that oil and gas companies have some obligation to public opinion. We are a country of law and they have a requirement to act within the law to the best advantage of their shareholders. Stakeholder opinion is only one factor in determining corporate strategy. I live directly beneath a new wind project in Lycoming county, by your logic Duke Energy should have heeded strong local opposition and cancelled development here.

      If the public and or the Commonwealth deems it important to protect a specific state forest over others, then we should be talking about an effort raise funds or use royalties from drilling in other less loved state forests to buy development rights in the Loyalsock state forest rather than calling for restraint by gas companies.

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  3. I do not think there should be any gas drilling on, or under any of our state lands. These lands belongs to the people of the commonwealth. Every acre in PA is a special place to someone and deserves to be protected. No compromise, no trade-offs, no cosmetic concessions. The time for a moratorium on all gas drilling in PA until independent, peer reviewed, health and environmental studies can be completed. Then let the public decide IF we want, or need to allow gas drilling in PA. To all those who think there is an acceptable percentage of the population, or private property to that is worth sacrificing, then I say to them, you make the sacrifice first. 500+ people spoke out against the DCNR's plan to destroy the Loyalsock, but also to say NO DRILLING ON STATE LANDS ANYWHERE. MORATORIUM, NOW! Any compromise in that position that would undermine the sentiment of the people is an insult.

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  4. Citizen Sane - Great comments. I totally agree!

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  5. Citizen Sane - Great comments. I totally agree!

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