Advocates: Keep Drillers Out of Loyalsock State Forest

Environmental advocates and House Democrats are urging the Corbett administration to keep natural gas drillers out of the Loyalsock State Forest in northern Pennsylvania.  Anadarko Petroleum Corporation owns the subsurface rights for some of the land, but state Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) says the state is in a strong bargaining position because it will be regulating the energy company for years to come.

“They need the DEP and DCNR’s permission for permits and so forth, for many things, both immediately and in the decades to come.  So the governor does have leverage.  So we are asking that he use that leverage to get a good result,” Vitali explained at a capitol news conference on Tuesday. 

But it’s a complex situation, according to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) press secretary Chris Novak.  “In the circumstances where the commonwealth does not own the mineral rights, we are required by law, by some legal decisions, to provide reasonable access to the owner, or to the person who leases those rights,” she says. 

The DCNR is working on an agreement that can both grant access and protect the forest.  The agency is planning a free webinar, Thursday, to review the issue and answer the public’s questions.

Mild Winter Could Lead to More Active Wildfire Season

The mild winter we’ve been having could bring a higher risk for wildfires, depending on whether we have a soggy or dry spring.   We’ve already had a forest fire and some brush fires in parts of the state and it’s a reminder the lack of  a deep snow pack this winter can raise the risk.

Levi Gelnett, a wildfire prevention specialist for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, says a snow pack would have compressed the leaf litter, making it longer to dry out. But he says this year, the leaf litter is light and fluffy, allowing air to circulate, making it more flammable.

Gelnett says even a spark from a passing train or someone taking target practice can ignite a fire that can spread quickly. A big cause of wildfires in Pennsylvania is controlled burning that gets out of hand.  An unattended campfire apparently caused a recent forest fire north of Allentown. Carelessly tossed cigarettes can also lead to wildfires, but Gelnett says that’s a bigger problem in Western states.

Gelnett says a recent fire in Knox Township, Clearfield  County scorched 46 acres and was started by a person shooting targets.  He says the bullet created enough of a spark to ignite the fire. One person suffered burn injuries trying to put out the fire.

Gelnett says there are one hour fuels, like weeds, leaves and grass that can dry out quickly.  He says people should do controlled burns carefully on rainy days and make sure to rake any dry vegetation away from the burn barrel.  He recommends people  consider alternatives to burning debris. If a controlled burn gets out of hand, you should call 911.  The DCNR website has a list of burn restrictions across the state.