According to Donald Gilliland of the Patriot-News, the Governor issued an executive order this afternoon that would allow natural gas drilling under state parks and forests.
“Limited leasing will allow natural gas to be extracted from deep beneath the surface only when there will be no additional long-term disturbance on state forest and park lands,” according to the Governor’s press release. “The order will only allow gas to be extracted horizontally through wells located on adjacent private lands or previously leased areas of the state forest.”
Later on, the order specifies that drilling may only take place so long as there is no “additional long-term surface disturbance.”
While many lawyers will attempt to interpret that phrase in the months to come, in layman’s terms it appears to mean that underground drilling will be allowed so long as it will not cause permanent damage to the parks.
This executive order is the fulfillment of a pledge the Governor made during his budget address last February.
As you would imagine, environmentalists are furious over Gov. Corbett’s decision, chief among them former Department of Environmental Protection and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger.
“This decision is clearly so toxic to the public that the governor is releasing it late on a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday,” Hanger said. “Corbett just does not understand that we cannot drill our way to prosperity, and we cannot drill our way to a balanced budget.”
The full executive order can be read here.
Update: The PA Democratic Party responded by posting a video of Gov. Corbett from 2012 saying he did not support drilling in state parks.