Rock Run drilling still a big question

RALSTON – Drilling for natural gas in the Rock Run area of McIntyre Township still may happen.

Then again, maybe not.

Anadarko Petroleum officials have not denied they have considered gas development in Loyalsock State Forest.

And state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials confirm that they continue to be in negotiations with Anadarko over drilling in the area opposed by environmental groups and others.

“We still do not have a signed surface use agreement with DCNR,” Anadarko spokeswoman Mary B. Wolf said last week.

She said the issue still is being discussed with DCNR.

Negotiations have been under way for quite some time over various issues pertaining to drilling.

McIntyre Township Supervisor Dan Clark said he knows little about what is happening with regard to gas development.

But he said supervisors are against drilling, which is being targeted in the area of Old Loggers Path, where seismic testing has been done.

“Sure, we’re opposed to it,” Clark said. “We went on record as being opposed to it.”

Last fall, Anadarko officials said discussions with DCNR concentrated on identification and protection of species and habitat.

State Department of Environmental Protection officials later notified the township that Anadarko might be willing to drill in areas of the forest land away from the Rock Run watershed.

Supervisors indicated that Rock Run is a high quality trout stream that could be adversely effected by drilling.

“DCNR has not made any agreements for gas drilling in the area of the Old Loggers Path in the Loyalsock State Forest,” DCNR spokeswoman Christina Novak said last week.

But officials with PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based non-profit advocacy group, have indicated that through a Right to Know request they learned that “advanced negotiations” between and Anadarko and DCNR are under way.

In an email released to the Sun-Gazette last week, it was stated, “We have asked the DCNR to open a public comment period on Anadarko’s development proposal since DCNR has a legal duty to conserve and maintain state forest lands for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, including future generations. Further, DCNR may not grant a right-of-way over state forest lands unless it determines that the interests of the Commonwealth or its citizens will be promoted. To date, our request of the DCNR goes unheeded.”

PennFuture officials could not reached for further comment.

DCNR officials in the past have conceded there exist a complex combination of privately and publicly owned surface and subsurface rights.

The state agency cannot prohibit access to the subsurface rights its does not own.

The state bought the land in 1933, but not the mineral rights.

Anadarko reportedly purchased 50 percent of the mineral rights under the state forest.

Drilling opponents believe Anadarko’s ability to drill may be held up by a 50-year deed, which limited surface rights.

However, that deed has expired.

Meanwhile, Brian Babb, permits chief with DEP’s northwestern office in Meadville, said Friday he can find no record of a drilling permit application by Anadarko for gas development in the area.