Legislator: Drilling in state forest needs input

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, will hold a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee at 2 p.m. May 1 at Lycoming College’s Wendell Hall, room D001 on the topic of natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.

The policy hearing, which will be attended by several members of the House Democratic Policy Committee, will be an opportunity for the public to provide input into proposed natural gas drilling and access to land in the Loyalsock State Forest and Rock Run area of McIntyre Township.

The meeting follows an April 4 closed door meeting that the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources held with an invitation-only list of people, which included elected officials and selected members of area outdoor and environmental organizations.

“The issue of public input into the decision-making process about this is critical. Unfortunately the public hasn’t been able to weigh in as much as they should,” Mirabito said at a press conference in Harrisburg on Monday.

Mirabito said that DCNR was invited to the meeting, but declined, according to Mirabito. Christine Novak, DCNR spokeswoman, confirmed Wednesday that the agency would not be attending.

Other organizations expected to provide testimony at the hearing include Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Penn Futures, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Sierra Club, Loyalsock Creek Watershed, Trout Unlimited and the Lycoming Audubon Society, Mirabito said.

The public also is invited to provide testimony to the committee.

Mirabito said that some people may not necessarily be opposed to natural gas drilling, but want to have a say in possible gas drilling on sensitive state forest lands.

“I thought it was important to bring the policy committee to Williamsport to have a broader discussion,” he said.

The legislator added that gas drilling on such lands has an impact on local tourism.

“It’s really an issue that affects more than Lycoming County. They’re concerned about it as people who utilize it,” he said of visitors who travel to the area to enjoy the state forest.