In February, Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to balance the state budget, in part, using millions of dollars in projected revenues from new oil-and-gas drilling leases in state parks and forests. It was the first public acknowledgment of Corbett’s plans to lift a 2010 moratorium on leasing. But records uncovered in an investigation by The Allegheny Front and WESA in Pittsburgh suggest the issue may have been under active discussion much earlier.
As part of an investigation, 90.5 WESA and The Allegheny Front obtained and examined more than 600 pages of appointment calendar records for former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Richard Allan. Allan headed the agency tasked with oversight of Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million acres of state park and forest lands from the beginning of the Corbett administration until he was let go in June of 2013. Records show a friendly relationship with the gas industry. But the most revealing aspects may be what’s not in them.
The oil and gas industry has spent heavily on campaign donations and lobbying in Pennsylvania since the state’s natural gas boom began. An investigation by The Allegheny Front and 90.5 WESA found the industry spent $34 million on lobbying since 2007.
When big portions of Act 13 were overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year, it meant the state would likely debate its landmark Marcellus shale law for years to come. Before it was passed, Act 13 was a subject of intense focus by the oil and gas industry. Critics of the law say that lobbying push had excessive influence on the process. The industry says it wants to have its voice heard in Harrisburg. As Act 13 showed, it’s willing to pay big money to do so.