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DCNR releases update to shale gas monitoring report
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn last week updated members of the Natural Gas Advisory Committee on the department’s ongoing efforts to monitor natural gas extraction and management on DCNR lands.

“Our Bureau of Forestry continues to provide updated information on the shale-gas industry and its effect on state forestlands, focusing most recently on infrastructure and associated acreages in its core shale-gas state forest districts,” Dunn said. “These updates to our Bureau of Forestry Shale-Gas Monitoring Program, to be supplied on a regular basis, are designed to help the committee continue providing valuable insight and expertise concerning the complex nature of natural gas management.

“As part of its overarching goal of ensuring sustainability of Pennsylvania’s forests, DCNR established this program to monitor, evaluate, and report on the impacts of shale-gas development to the state forest system and its stakeholders. It program aims to provide objective and credible information to the public and inform and improve shale-gas management efforts.”

Noting the natural Gas Advisory Committee was formed to “help identify concepts, best practices and principles -- and assist in integrating them into the department’s natural gas management efforts on DCNR lands,” Dunn said, “This monitoring update focusing on infrastructure is snapshot of what our experts are seeing in the forest districts affected by the natural gas industry through December 2014.”

Key points outlined by the secretary to the 21-member committee included:

  • In 2013, 79 new wells were approved for drilling on state forestland and 47 in 2014. Through the end of 2014, a total of 1,020 wells have been approved. To date, 608 wells have been drilled on state forestland;
  • In 2013, 19 new infrastructure pads (encompassing 73 acres) were constructed in the core gas districts. Eight new infrastructure pads (32 acres) were constructed in 2014. Since the onset of gas development, 755 acres have been converted for infrastructure pads;
  • Overall, four miles of new road were constructed in 2013 in the core gas districts. In 2014, less than one mile of new road was constructed, bringing the total miles of new road to 36 since 2007. Acreage converted for new roads and road modifications in 2013 totaled 22 acres; 16 acres in 2014. A total of 259 acres have been converted for new road construction and road modification to accommodate gas development in the core gas districts;
  • A total of 49 acres were converted for pipeline rights-of-way in the core gas districts in 2013; 66 acres in 2014. Since 2007, 661 acres have been converted to pipeline ROW in these districts;
  • Total acreage converted to non-forest in the core gas districts in 2013 was 144 acres. For 2014, 114 acres were converted. Total conversion acreage for all types of development in the core gas districts since the onset of shale gas development is 1,674 acres.

Detailed information, along with a variety of graphics, can be found in the Infrastructure chapter of the bureau’s Shale Gas Monitoring Report. Background and summarized data from 2007 to 2012 can be found here.

Fulfilling a recommendation in the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Report, the Natural Gas Advisory Committee was formed to advise and provide recommendations for implementing natural gas management in a manner consistent with the mission of DCNR and its bureaus.

The primary work of NGAC focuses on state forestlands and the work of the Bureau of Forestry, whose mission is to manage state forest ecosystems to retain their wild character and biological diversity, while providing pure water, opportunities for low density recreation, habitats for forest plants and animals, sustained yields of quality timber and environmentally sound utilization of mineral resources.

Dr. James Grace, Penn State University’s Goddard Chair in Forestry and Environmental Resources Conservation, chairs the committee. DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry assumed lead responsibility for coordinating and facilitating its work.

The NGAC is made up of 21 experts from a variety of backgrounds and organizations, including conservation groups, universities, gas industry, environmental consultants and recreation-related organizations.

A July 2011 Marcellus Shale Commission report recommended that “DCNR should establish a Natural Gas Advisory Committee to enhance communications among stakeholders regarding natural gas development on state forest and park land.”

The report also recommends, “DEP and DCNR—along with industry—should continually review and examine the range of best management practices utilized during construction and operation of the well site, and consider incorporating these types of practices into regulatory and operator guidance.”

For more information about gas development on state forest lands visit the DCNR website here.

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July 29, 2015

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