In 2012, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) conducted its first assessment on Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania’s state forests and found development is “neither benign nor catastrophic.”
On Thursday, the DCNR released an updated report of Marcellus Shale development in state forests that covers all the way through 2014. Secretary Cindy Dunn commented on the department’s newest forest report:
As part of its overarching goal of ensuring sustainability of Pennsylvania’s forests, DCNR established this program to monitor, evaluate, and report on the impacts of shale-gas development … It aims to provide objective and credible information.
As reported by State Impact Pennsylvania, “The report shows most of the drilling occurring in seven ‘core gas’ forest districts: Sproul, Susquehannock, Elk, Moshannon, Tioga, Loyalsock, and Tiadaghton. Since the onset of shale gas development, DCNR says 1,674 acres have been converted from forest to “non-forest” in those core areas.”
The drilling patterns in the forest follow the trends in development of the Marcellus. It consists of a great amount of roads, wellpads and pipeline development during 2008, hitting its highest point in 2010 and 2011 before flattening out and shifting downward. According to State Impact Pennsylvania, “In 2013, just four miles of new road were constructed in the core gas districts, and in 2014 it was less than one mile. Since 2007, 37 miles of new road have been built. And even though 1,020 wells have been approved, so far 608 have been drilled.”
Forest fragmentation is still a great concern, and to help with the issue the DCNR has attempted to convince operators to develop land near already existing infrastructure. The department has also worked with companies to develop strategies to reclaim areas once they have left.