October 18, 2013
An environmental group wants to see details about a drilling plan for Loyalsock State Forest. But it says the independent state agency charged with managing public records is keeping too much of the plan a secret.
PennFuture wanted to see what Anadarko Petroleum has in mind about drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest. At issue is a 25,000 acre site where Anadarko owns part of the mineral rights, and the state owns the surface.
PennFuture has been petitioning the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for copies of Anadarko’s drilling plans. Last month, the Pennsylvania’s Office of Open records, an independent state agency, decided the plans should be public. But it allowed the DCNR to redact anything that might put Anadarko at a disadvantage to its competitors.
PennFuture’s Mark Szybist said the agency was allowed to redact too much--including information it had already made public in June—like the number of miles of roads the company would put in the forest.
“This is public land and the public has a right to know what a private company that wants to drill for oil and gas plans to do with that land,” Szybist says.
Office of Open Records director Terri Mutchler said the public has an interest in seeing the plan, but says the statute governing redactions is clear. There are other drilling companies operating nearby, and the DCNR’s lawyers made a convincing argument that releasing the plans could hurt Anadarko.
“If the information was released, the information would cause (Anadarko) competitive harm,” Mutchler says.
Chris Novak, DCNR spokeswoman, said the agency presented much of the plan at a public meeting this year, and didn't think any of Anadarko's requested redactions "unreasonable."
Anadarko spokeswoman Christina Ramirez said in an e-mail that the company's plan includes measures that "reflect accommodations we have made to protect sensitive areas and native species" and reduce impacts to recreation in the forest.