Report: Pa. Taxpayer-Owned Shale Development “Carefully Managed”

Released yesterday, the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) first ever Shale-Gas Monitoring Report underscores the fact that the safe, aggressively-regulated development of taxpayer-owned shale gas resources in the Commonwealth is generating huge amounts of much-needed revenue – $582.3 million through 2012 – and is being carried out in an environmentally efficient way.

As DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said, “The breadth and depth of this report demonstrates that shale gas production on state forests is being carefully managed.”

In addition to the fact that DCNR’s report states that its “monitoring data shows that water quality has not been affected due to” shale development, another important takeaway is that the overall surface footprint of these activities is minor. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this:

About 1,486 acres of Pennsylvania state forest land has been converted to roads, pipelines, and well pads for Marcellus Shale natural gas development. … The state has leased 386,000 acres to gas drillers. Private owners control the mineral rights on an additional 287,000 acres of public land.

Put another way: Of the leased state forests – 673,000 acres in all – a mere 2 percent has been utilized at the surface for shale development. This speaks to the efficiencies that operators in the Commonwealth are leveraging to further reduce the industry’s operational footprint, which helps our environment and provides for the safe development of expanded shale production.

Here’s what they’re saying about the report:

Patriot-News: “The report does lay out the dramatic spike in payments to the state from natural gas activities on state lands. Royalties from shale leases are within a year of surpassing the cumulative total of all royalties from state gas leases for the previous 75 years.”

Tribune-Review: “Private natural gas and oil wells in state forests pumped $582 million into Pennsylvania budgets in five years, more than tripling the combined revenue of the prior 60 years, state forestry officials said on Wednesday. … Income from state forest wells supports the Pennsylvania general fund and the DCNR.”

UPI: “Water quality in Pennsylvania hasn’t been affected by hydraulic fracturing in the state, a report from state’s conservation department said.”

Key DCNR report findings are below (more resources available here: Press Release; Executive Summary; Full Report):

  • Natural gas development is one of the management activities that historically has occurred on state forest land. The activity contributes significantly to Pennsylvania’s economy and provides a source of domestic energy.
  • One hundred and sixty-one total miles of road have been improved or constructed for shale-gas development in the core gas districts. Of these, 131 miles of state forest roads that existed prior to the shale-gas development have been improved or upgraded for gas development activities, and 30 miles of new roads have been constructed for gas development activities.
  • The development of shale-gas resources on state forest lands has the potential to increase the spread of nonnative invasive species. The bureau works cooperatively with the Pa. Invasive Species Council, the Pa. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other state agencies and organizations to coordinate efforts regarding invasive species.
  • Initial water monitoring results have not identified any significant impacts due to shale-gas development. This is based on one round of field chemistry sampling throughout the shale-gas region and over a year of operation for 10 continuous monitoring devices in key watersheds.
  • The natural gas produced through shale-gas development also has the potential to create an overall positive effect on air quality. … Since shale-gas development began in Pennsylvania in 2008, there has been a marked decrease in several major air pollutants, such as sulfur, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide.
  • Natural gas is a fuel of choice for heating and industrial processes and electrical production where available in large quantities at a competitive price. … Approximately 15 percent of all shale gas produced in Pennsylvania comes from state forest lands.
  • Since the first leases in 1947, the development of natural gas resources on state forest land has generated a steady and increasing revenue source for the commonwealth in the form of rents and royalties.
  • The pre-shale-gas period of oil and gas activity provided a total income to the commonwealth of approximately $153,659,522. The shale-gas period (through 2012, for the purposes of this report) has provided $582,250,644 in revenue. The combined total of all revenue from the oil and gas lease program from 1947 to the end of 2012 has been approximately $735,910,166. … Steady revenue growth from gas extraction is expected to continue for the next decade.