|Natural Gas & Water Access Program
|FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- What is the Marcellus Shale formation?
The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation that lies more than a mile underground and stretches from New York through Pennsylvania and into West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, the formation reaches from the northern tier as far east as Wayne County and as far south and west as Greene County and the Pittsburgh area. It is thought to contain large quantities of natural gas.
- Why is there so much interest in the Marcellus Shale formation?
Geologists have known for decades about the gas in the Marcellus Shale. New technologies, specifically advances in horizontal drilling, and increased gas prices have made it possible and economically viable to recover the hard-to-reach fuel trapped in the deep layer. In addition, Marcellus Shale natural gas is close to the major metropolitan markets of the northeast, making it significantly cheaper to transmit than natural gas from other parts of the country.
- How is the establishment of the Natural Gas Leasing and Water Access programs consistent with the Commission’s Resource First management philosophy?
Water access opportunities and non-surface natural gas leases can be developed consistent with the agency’s Resource First policy while ensuring that the Commission – and the anglers and boaters it serves – are equitably compensated for the activity. In the case of water access to our properties, we will be minimizing local impacts by significantly reducing truck traffic and placing strict rules on when and how the water can be withdrawn, including modeling best management practices such as those used to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
All agreements will ensure that natural gas and water use activities do not interfere with the public’s use of PFBC access areas. Projects and partnerships that impact environmental resources or limit, impede, or restrict fishing and boating opportunities will not be considered for further development and implementation under this program.
- What will the Commission do to ensure little to no impact on publicly used resources while entering into lease agreements?
PFBC retains ownership and complete control of the land. The Commission will review site plans associated with each lease proposal and make recommendations to reduce or eliminate construction and operational impacts. Lease agreements will include language specific to each site to protect resources and their public use.
- Will surface facilities on Commission land be permitted with natural gas leases?
No. The PFBC will not permit the installation or use of production wells or any other type of natural gas production equipment on its properties.
- How will withdrawal of water occur in a way that does not cause low water levels?
Water withdrawal thresholds will be set on a site-specific basis to allow water withdrawal when water is available, and to stop water withdrawal by implementing water level trigger levels or seasonal restrictions. Both stream flow and impoundment levels will be considered. Water withdrawal will be consistent with Commission’s policies, Department of Environmental Protection water management plans, and regulatory requirements of river basin commissions.
- How will the Commission monitor waterways to confirm that companies are not withdrawing more water than is allowed?
Water withdrawals are recorded by meters, similar to water meters used in homes. Commission employees will have access to the meters and the data.
- Many waterways are stocked with trout. Will water withdrawals be allowed on opening day?
No, the Commission will not allow water withdrawals on the opening days of trout season or during times of high use, such as the Memorial Day, July 4 or Labor Day weekends. PFBC will review the recreational use of each waterway when making the decision whether to allow water withdrawals on other special days, holidays and weekends.
- How much property does the Commission own or control which could be used for natural gas leasing or water access opportunities?
The Commission has approximately 43,000 acres of Commonwealth property under its control. Of that, the Commission estimates that about 14,000 acres have the potential to be developed under the Natural Gas Leasing and Water Access programs.
- Is there a publicly available map showing the locations of Commission properties?
Yes, the map is available at http://fishandboat.com/water/ngwa/ngwa_properties.htm.
- What are the revenue estimates for the two programs?
The Commission has established preliminary revenue estimates, but they are not publicly available. Revenue estimates are a key factor in contract negotiations, and releasing them could adversely impact the Commission’s ability to secure the greatest benefits for its customers. However, the Commission estimates that enough revenue can be generated to help fund high priority infrastructure needs, including high-hazard dam repairs.
- How will revenues generated by the two programs be used?
Revenues generated from these projects are to be initially used to fund programs and projects that support the agency’s mission in the form of capital infrastructure improvements, with priority being given to the repair and restoration of the 16 Commonwealth-owned high hazard dams managed by the Commission. For more information about PFBC’s high hazard dams, please visit http://www.fishandboat.com/dams. Other potential projects which may be considered after top priority infrastructure needs are met include habitat restoration and enhancement projects, public access, and innovative environmental research projects.