Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Proprietary Plans On Public Land

Fall colors in the Loyalsock State Forest
by Ralph Kisberg and Morgan Myers
Although Responsible Drilling Alliance has been aware of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's plans to develop gas rights in and around the Old Loggers Path, Rock Run, Pleasant Stream and other Lycoming and Loyalsock Creek headwater streams for some time now, the plans have yet to be revealed to the public. Apparently such information can be considered "proprietary" despite the fact that the development will take place on public land.
When will this information become public? The people of Pennsylvania deserve the right to offer input on the management of public land before  another insider deal is done. Why don't stakeholders other than the developer and an administration with huge campaign contributions from the gas industry have a seat at the table with the DCNR? A true gem of our public lands is on the chopping block, and no direct benefit to the public - in fact, only detriment - will accrue from shale gas development.
On September 7th, Responsible Drilling Alliance, the PA Forest Coalition, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Keystone Trails Association and the Sierra Club sent a letter to DCNR Secretary Richard Allan asking for environmental impact studies, public meetings on development alternatives, and public comment periods on any proposed agreements between DCNR and Anadarko. We have yet to receive a response.
RDA President Ralph Kisberg and PA State Senate candidate Luana Cleveland spoke to a high level DCNR staff person in Harrisburg on Tuesday who denied any talks between DCNR and Anadarko about developing the Clarence Moore tracts.  On Monday, State Rep. Garth Everett told RDA that Anadarko and DCNR are "discussing development of the Clarence Moore tracts".

Anadarko stake
On Wednesday, RDA found stakes for a "preliminary" pad site on a portion of Clarence Moore where maps tell us DCNR controls surface development. We also saw flagging for road widening and the placement of gas and water pipelines.
If Rep. Everett was misled and there are no discussions between DCNR and Anadarko, how would the latter be able to stake out a portion of forest that the former has jurisdiction over? Something doesn't add up.
The stakes and flagging RDA discovered Wednesday are in addition to those found on Crandall Town Trail last week. This new "preliminary" site is along John Merrell Road, about  0.4 miles west from Cascade Road on Burnett's Ridge.
Well pads around here have typically been constructed following a loose southwest to northeast trend line, with each pad along that line ideally about 1/2 mile apart. By extrapolating this pattern you get a rough idea of Anadarko's planned layout for the Clarence Moore 25,000 acres of mineral rights. In the case of other developments on large tracts of land, a trend line will emerge approximately every 2 miles to the north and south. The discovery of the sites planned for Burnett's Ridge and Sullivan Mountain confirms this basic well pad layout pattern, although topographical and water features have modified it somewhat.
The length of some operators' laterals has approached 10,000 feet. By exercising its surface control of ¾ of the Clarence Moore tract, DCNR could force the company to push their trend lines farther apart. This would mitigate surface disturbance to the state forest by about half. If development were delayed for a longer period, hydraulic fracturing technology might evolve to the point where the surface need not be disturbed at all. If the administration were willing to include the public in its negotiations with Anadarko, perhaps this region's beauty, tranquility and decades of forest equity would not be thrown away so easily.
DCNR's furtive behavior concerning its negotiations with Anadarko does not serve its mission or the interests of the people. Why are surface use plans on public land allowed to be considered proprietary? Why does DCNR deny negotiations with Anadarko when all evidence points to the contrary? Most of all, why is public land being developed without public input?

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