New Castle News

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January 30, 2013

Commission approves shale lease of Pulaski game lands

NEW CASTLE — The Pennsylvania Game Commission will allow Hilcorp Energy Co. to extract oil and gas from game lands in Pulaski Township.

The eight-member commission Tuesday unanimously approved a restricted surface use oil and gas cooperative agreement for two tracts of state game land 150. Those tracts, totaling 586 acres, are on the south side of Route 208 near Route 551, and off Valley View Road.

Two Lawrence County residents presented testimony in Harrisburg over the weekend against the proposal.

Carrie Hahn of Volant and Martin Matteo of Pulaski gave the commission petitions protesting the use of the game lands for drilling and fracking.

Joe Neville, game commission director of information and education, commented Tuesday that, “Due to the small size of these two separate tracts and the privately held leases adjacent to the game lands, our staff recognized the potential loss of a significant amount of oil/gas revenue if we as an agency did not react in a prudent and environmentally conscious manner.”

The commission can now facilitate a restricted surface use lease and maximize its protection and management of its natural resources to the benefit of all sportsmen and wildlife, Neville said.

He noted that if the funding received from Hilcorp — $1.9 million plus 20 percent in royalties — can be used locally, it will be.

“We try, if there is any loss of usage to the public and sportsmen, to replace it somewhere nearby. That’s not always easy.”

The game commission had accepted public comment about the Pulaski project at its quarterly meeting.

Hahn and Matteo delivered the petitions that reportedly carried more than 4,700 online and in-person signatures. The documents protest the leasing and state that portions of the game lands lie within 1,000 feet of Pulaski Elementary School and within a 100-year flood zone.

The petition, posted online at Change.org, also contends that shale gas drilling poses environmental and health threats that include contamination of water supplies, destruction of public lands and increased air pollution.

“This took off much faster than we ever anticipated,” Hahn said, noting the petition was created Jan. 4.

The commission had advertised its Pulaski lands for leasing through competitive royalty bidding in October, and Hilcorp was the only bidder. The bid was opened Nov. 8.

The commission will receive a one-time bonus/rental payment of $3,250 per acre for a five-year paid-up agreement, and a minimum of 20 percent royalty of the value of oil, gas and condensate produced and sold from under the premises. The total bonus payment of $1,904,522 is to be deposited into a game fund account for the purchase of wildlife habitats, lands or other uses incidental to hunting, furtaking and wildlife management.

Oil and gas development will be regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the commission’s standard restricted surface use oil and gas cooperative agreement, according to terms outlined in the game commission’s agenda.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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