Vitali seeks info regarding Corbett’s drilling proposal

State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford filed a right-to-know request to gain additional details on Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to raise $75 million by leasing state parks and forests for nonimpact surface drilling.

Vitali seeks to know which parks and forests are being considered for the drilling and the amount of acres that will be used. He requested the calculations used to determine the $75 million benefit and a list of the companies showing interest. He also wants information detailing the environmental impact of drilling already being done on state land.

Vitali attempted to gain this information from DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti during budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee last month. Vitali was unsatisfied with Ferretti’s responses, claiming her details about the drilling proposal were vague.

“We really got nowhere,” said Vitali, the minority chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “We reached the conclusion that they’re simply not going to voluntarily give it up. I think the importance of it is (that) we need to put a face on this. People need to know what this really is going to result in. When we leased it out the first time, that was the first time through this process.

“When you see these gas lines and … compressor stations, it really degrades these state forests. It really puts a face on what it means. … Before they move forward I think people need to know what we’re going to be doing here.”

Vitali issued a press release Wednesday announcing his right-to-know request.

The Corbett administration responded with a letter calling Vitali’s press release “irresponsible.”

“To date, you have chosen to draw conclusions and hurl accusations about this proposal through multiple press conferences, newsletters and press releases,” wrote Patrick Henderson, deputy chief of staff and energy executive. “Not once – on this or any other substantive policy matter – have you sought over the past three years to have a meeting to sit down and have a rational discussion with the governor’s office.”

The letter also accused Vitali of being “political and hypocritical,” noting he twice voted for budgets under former Gov. Ed Rendell that raised a combined $240 million by leasing state forest land for natural gas development.

Vitali said Rendell was trying to beef up education amidst an economic freefall while battling Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“This idea was floated,” Vitali said. “We were against it. It had the votes, but there was a lot of pressure to support it. Promises were made to a group that, if we do this, this wont happen in the future. In the end, I did vote for the budget.

“Had I known then what I know now, had I’d been able to see what that vote meant, I wouldn’t have taken it. You live and learn.”

Henderson’s letter also noted that Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal prohibits the state government from entering any new leases that would result in new or additional surface disturbance on state-owned lands.

About 700,000 acres of state land has been made available for drilling; DCNR has leased about 138,000 acres.

The DCNR has five days to acknowledge Vitali’s request and then another 30 days to respond.

Vitali is running for re-election. He does not have a challenger in the Democratic primary but likely will face Republican Sarah Armstrong, of Radnor, in the General Election.


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