Levdansky against lease plan

By PATRICK CLOONAN Daily News Staff Writer

An area lawmaker wants an end to plans to lease state lands for natural gas drilling.

State Rep. David Levdansky, D-Forward Township, joined other lawmakers and environmental and sportsmen’s organizations at a news conference in Harrisburg last week to voice opposition to Gov. Ed Rendell’s plan to generate revenue by leasing out additional state forest land to tap the Marcellus Shale.

“We are the stewards of the best state forest system in the U.S.,” Levdansky said.

“I will do anything and everything within my power to see that legacy passed on to my children and future generations of Pennsylvanians.” An end to leases could impact McKeesport Mayor James Brewster’s proposal that municipalities receive a share of Marcellus Shale revenue from leases or from an extraction tax that Rendell has proposed.

State Reps. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, have expressed support for Brewster’s plan, and Levdansky


has supported an extraction tax, saying it is the same sort of levy West Virginia now uses.

He also criticized a Republican proposal last year for leasing state lands.

He said the state lands were meant for recreation, not the extraction of natural gas.

“Using the state forest system as a cash cow to fund the state budget is the worst environmental policy proposal I have seen in my legislative career,” Levdansky said.

The groups said 1.5 million of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land are part of the multi-state gas field that requires deep drilling and the “fracking,” or breaking up, of shale with water and sand to obtain the gas.

Levdansky said the state does not hold the mineral rights, or that the rights already have been leased, for 700,000 of those acres.

“We’ve seen 106,000 acres leased in less than two years and over half of the state forest acreage in the gas producing region is now open to gas development,” Levdansky said.

“Enough is enough. Once the gas companies are finished with that pristine land, it may never be the same.” Levdansky said the governor’s lease proposal also would raid the state’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which now is used to fund the state parks and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.


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