Nature Conservancy Aims to Change State's Land Permit Process

A new report out this week from the Nature Conservancy tries to peer into the future of Pennsylvania's landscape as a transformation in energy production begins to take foot. The Allegheny Front's Ryan Delaney reports the conservancy wants to change the state's permitting process.

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DELANEY: Almost half of state forestland has been leased for natural gas drilling. Biomass burning is increasing and the Nature Conservancy points out that even wind farms have an impact on animal habitats. Put all of that on top of coal mining and you have a lot of land taken up for energy production.

Executive Director of Pennsylvania's Chapter of the Nature Conservancy Bill Kunze says state agencies look at each permit on a point-by-point basis, but they need to start looking at the bigger impact on forests and rivers.

KUNZE: A company comes in and asks for a permit to do 'X' at spot 'Y'. And there's a lot of 'X's and and a lot of 'Y's, but nobody is adding that up and looking at what the cumulative effect across the whole landscape is.

DELANEY: The report says over 3,000 acres of land have already been cleared and another 8,000 degraded from past energy projects. And the report notes that with every acre dedicated to development, more are lost due to noise and pollution.

The Nature Conservancy will now take this report to government agencies in hopes of getting them to re-think their permitting process.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Ryan Delaney.