Loyalsock State Forest development plan released

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Tuesday released Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s development plan for the Clarence Moore tract of the Loyalsock State Forest following a Right-To-Know Law request from the environmental group PennFuture.

“The proposal is more than a year old and does not in any way reflect a final decision or plan for the 25,000 acres known as the Clarence Moore lands,” DCNR Press Secretary Christina Novak said Oct. 15.

The tract in question encompasses portions of the Old Logger’s Path trail near Rock Run, an exceptional value trout stream beloved by many for its delicate beauty. Several well-attended protests have been held in opposition to Anadarko’s plans to drill that portion of the state forest.

“PennFuture and other environmental groups have the misperception that we’d do something to (harm the Loyalsock),” Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Government Relations Adviser Mary B. Wolf said. “There are so many sensitive areas in other forests that we’ve respected.”

“We don’t claim that Anadarko is acting with any intent to harm the Loyalsock’s natural resources. Anadarko wants to develop its oil and gas interests – that’s its purpose. The issue is whether in the process species will inevitably be harmed,” PennFuture Staff Attorney Mark Szybist said.

While a thorough environmental review will not take place unless the permitting process begins, sensitive species, including pitcher plants, timber rattlesnakes and yellowbelly flycatchers, are known to live in the Loyalsock.

“We’ve done preliminary wetland and habitat studies that helped guide this (plan) but this is still very much a work in progress,” Wolf said.

The development plan outlines the location, number and size of proposed well pads, as well as access roads, according to Wolf. Environmental concerns prompted Anadarko to reduce the number of proposed pads, Wolf said.

DCNR initially denied PennFuture’s request for Anadarko’s development plan. On appeal, the Office of Open Records determined that the information was in fact public.

“We’d like a committment from DCNR to make this kind of information available to the public without having to go through this sort of fight,” Szybist said.

While portions of the development plan were redacted, Wolf said the information was proprietary and concerned levels and depths of minerals.

“We want the public to know that we are not hiding anything. The material that was redacted is of a competitive nature and primarily deals with seismology,” Wolf said.

“I myself have not seen a version that’s not redacted so I can’t tell what’s taken out,” Novak said.

The development plan is the first in a series of steps that could lead to drilling, Wolf said. If the plan is confirmed, Anadarko will seek a surface use agreement with DCNR. Then, the permitting process would begin.

“Other developers already are in the Loyalsock,” Wolf pointed out.

According to DEP production reports, Seneca Resources’ well pads in the Loyalsock State Forest are highly prolific.

“The Loyalsock State Forest is public land and we think the public should have a say in how the land is developed and if it’s developed at all,” Szybist said.

The only visual impact to Rock Run access in Ralston would be the posting of a “No Anadarko Traffic Beyond This Point” sign, Wolf said.

“When the total development is done, there will be less than 2 percent land disturbance,” Wolf said.