PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Using one of Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks as back-drop, Gov. Tom Wolf signed his third executive order on Thursday, this one placing a moratorium on drilling or fracking in Pennsylvania’s state parks and 20 state forests.
“These state lands are intended to be refuges, places where people can go and enjoy natural beauty,” Wolf declared at Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia.
The moratorium is a restoration of one first begun by Gov. Ed Rendell but suspended by Gov. Tom Corbett who was looking to lease state lands for drilling.
It involves over two million acres of land.
“We’re extremely excited by this,” Steve Hvozdovich, Pennsylvania Campaign Director for Clean Water Action, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Clean Water Action, a statewide environmental group that opposed Corbett’s move to open up state lands, said Wolf’s decision protects parks from the noise of industrial pollution and preserves natural habitats for animals.
“Moving from that, you get into the serious stuff,” added Hvozdovich. “That’s air pollution, that’s potential air quality pollution. We’ve already seen in Pennsylvania confirmed over 200 cases of drinking water contamination.”
A conference on the Marcellus-Utica shale streams was wrapping up in Pittsburgh at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center just as the governor made his announcement.
No surprise — the reaction was hardly favorable.
“I’m kind of shocked — didn’t really think that kind of thing would really happen,” said Jerry Kengerski of American Contractors Equipment.
And industry people thought it would hurt overall.
“It will hurt Pennsylvania and the whole Marcellus-Utica type of work, definitely a hindrance for job creations, and what it will end up doing is probably push a lot of companies to other states that are more friendly,” noted Dennis Chismar of Bilfinger Westcon.
But Wolf insists there’s plenty of land left for drilling.
“I absolutely want to do natural gas,” insisted the governor. “I think if we do it right, we can create really good jobs at a great industry.”