DCNR Budget Hearings: Drilling On DCNR Lands, Privatization, Oil & Gas Lease Fund
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn this week appeared before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the proposed FY 2017-18 budget requested for DCNR.
Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed a concern about again using significant monies from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay personnel and operations costs.
With respect to privatization in state parks, Secretary Dunn said DCNR has involved private concessionaires and already has authority to pursue public-private partnership. There are 145 agreements now in place, everything from food vendors to the recent agreement opening the Laurel Mountain ski area.
She said she would welcome ideas for public-private partnerships that are compatible with the mission of state parks.
Click Here for a summary of DCNR’s written budget testimony.
Here is a quick summary of issues raised by questions from House and Senate members at the budget hearing--
-- Using Oil & Gas Lease Fund For Operations: Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), Minority Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expressed a concern about again using significant monies from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay personnel and operations costs.
-- Drilling On State Park Land: Dunn noted DCNR does not own the mineral rights under 85 percent of the land used for state parks. There are no Marcellus Shale natural gas wells on state parks, but there are some conventional wells on state park land. She noted there is a moratorium on additional drilling on DCNR land. Dunn did point out only 20 percent of the leases already issued are now being developed by drillers. She said there is not a single drilling rig on state forest land at the moment. Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked a similar question in the Senate hearing.
-- Recovering Royalties Owed To DCNR: Dunn said DCNR recovered nearly $1.5 million since 2010 in mistakes made by drilling companies paying royalties to DCNR for the wells drilled on state forest land. Dunn noted DCNR retained an accountant to help in this recovery process. Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee asked a similar question in the Senate hearing.
-- Ryerson Station/Coal Mining: Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and Sen. Gene Yaw asked for the status of agreements with Consol mining needed to mine coal near Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County. Dunn noted the Environmental Hearing Board issued a supercedeas preventing mining according to the agreement with DCNR and DEP. Consol recently reached out to again pursue those discussions with the agency, Dunn said.
-- Privatization In State Parks: Dunn said from the very first state parks the agency has involved private concessionaires and already has authority to pursue those ideas. There are 145 agreements now in place, everything from food vendors to the recent agreement opening the Laurel Mountain ski area. She said she would welcome ideas for public-private partnerships that are compatible with the state parks mission.
-- Entrance Fees To State Parks: In response to a question from Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill) about whether it is time to consider a state park entrance fee, Dunn said DCNR does charge for more specialized services of cabins, swimming pools and other amenities, but an entrance fee is not being considered. Dunn noted state parks generate significant economic benefit to the Commonwealth. For $1 invested in state parks return over $12 to the economy.
-- Chesapeake Bay Initiative: Sen. Gene Yaw asked for a specific plan on how DCNR will spend its funds to meet Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed cleanup as he did of the Department of Agriculture.
-- Riparian Buffers: Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, asked about plans for funding riparian buffers to meet, in part, Pennsylvania’s obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Program. Dunn outlined DCNR’s leadership role in helping to fund multi-use riparian buffer grant initiative to improve water quality. Rep. Carroll expressed concerns about Gov. Wolf’s proposed plan to float a bond to fund its watershed cleanup obligations.
-- Green Ribbon Task Force On Forest Products: In response to a question from Sen. Yudichak, Dunn said they are actively working on implementing the recommendations of the Green Ribbon Task Force On Forest Products, including promoting the management of more “working forests,” promoting youth interest in forest product jobs and taking other steps. She pointed out many members of the Task Force have chosen to continue to work with DCNR on the recommendations.
-- Boosting Timber Sales: Sen. Argall asked if DCNR could boost the sale of state-owned timber. Dunn noted sales are dependent in part on market conditions. At the same time, DCNR has added new land that could generate more income.
-- Serving Urban Areas: Dunn said it is DCNR’s mission to serve all areas of the state and the Community Conservation Partnership Grants significantly support urban recreation opportunities.
-- Performance Budgeting: In response to a question on whether DCNR uses performance budgeting, Dunn said DCNR uses a variety of measuring tools to evaluate the agency’s programs, including partnering with Penn State to develop an economic impact study of state parks.
[Posted: Feb. 27, 2017]
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