Gas drilling hearing serves purpose if premise is pure

When it comes to gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest, the questioning seems to be without end.

State Rep. Greg Vitali, a Havertown Democrat and chairman of the Housing Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, held a news conference last week to call on Gov. Tom Corbett to hold public hearings about proposed natural gas development in the Loyalsock State Forest.

We support having those hearings. The natural gas drilling industry is bolstered, not threatened, by extra diligence to make sure it is doing business in an environmentally safe manner.

But let’s be clear.

Two gas producers own 50 percent of the subsurface rights on which they have requested access to extract natural gas.

And on 7,000 of the 25,000 acres, the companies claim the state cannot prohibit surface access.

So the hearings serve a purpose if they are a forum of legitimate concerns. But they don’t serve a purpose if they are geared to being a gotcha witchhunt full of unsubstantiated allegations.

As long as the hearings are being held for the right purpose, we are all for the public being fully informed about plans for drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.

But the natural gas industry in this state already is heavily regulated and correctly so. To date, the industry has a pretty solid environmental record.

So hearings based on the assumption that the industry is going to destroy the forest are hearings being held on the wrong premise.

Let the public be informed, but don’t hold hearings simply to push an incorrectly conceived agenda.