Explore hiking trails, environmental issues, recreational funding challenges and trail maintenance in Central Pennsylvania with Jim Foster.
Next Tuesday, May 6, there will be two rallies on shale gas drilling competing for your attention. One is organized by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a trade group that supports gas drilling. The MSC says their event is intended to let legislators and the public know that a diverse group of people support the natural gas boom that began about six years ago. The other rally is being organized by Keystone Trails Association. KTA is the state's advocacy organization for hiking and trails. By way of full disclosure, I am a Director and Officer of KTA. However, the views expressed in this post are mine and not necessarily those of KTA.
Why is a hiking and trails organization leading a rally against gas drilling? The reason is not drilling per se, but the current Administration's strategy on drilling. “Hiking trails and hikers have been significantly impacted by gas drilling in Pennsylvania,” says KTA Executive Director Curt Ashenfelter. “We support the moratorium on gas leasing of state forests and state parks.” “Hiker/gas driller conflicts are many and they are significant,” Ashenfelter said. “Keystone Trails Association is concerned that with over 500 wells drilled and 5,000 more on the way, conflicts will significantly increase and hikers will no longer be able to hike the over 2,000 miles of long distance hiking trails in the shale gas region of Pennsylvania.” Visit KTA's website, www.kta-hike.org for more information on KTA's views.
I'm an active hiker and trail maintainer. Earlier in my life, I owned land in northwestern PA which I leased to an oil and gas driller. I had a gas well and an oil well on my land, and received some fairly modest royalties. I am not opposed to oil and gas drilling. But, I am opposed to the strategy employed by the current Governor. He has opened up our state parks and forests to drilling, apparently without any restrictions. In choosing the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, he chose someone with no background in environmental regulation. The Secretary demonstrated in his confirmation hearing testimony that he is ignorant of the current science on climate change. See more about that issue HERE.
There is another path that our Governor could have chosen. He could have allowed gas drilling on private land and even some public land, as long as important resources like parks, forests and trails are not threatened. And, he could have agreed to a reasonable extraction tax on shale gas. Are you aware that every other state with significant shale gas resources has an extraction tax except for Pennsylvania? This includes deeply red states like Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. But, our Governor says he will veto any attempt to impose an extraction tax. This should not be surprising, given the amount of political contributions ha has received from gas and oil interests.
For those reasons, you will see me in Harrisburg on May 6 demonstrating with others from KTA and groups with similar views. I'm not opposed to drilling. I am opposed to the no-holds-barred exploitation of our precious state parks and state forests. I also feel that the shale drillers ought to pay their own way through a reasonable extraction tax. Where do you stand on this important issue?