Drilling data must be made public
Gov. Tom Corbett helped balance his proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year by lifting a moratorium on new gas drilling under state forests and other public lands. According to the budget, leases and royalties will produce $75 million for the state treasury in the first year.
State Rep. Greg Vitali, the ranking Democrat on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, subsequently filed a right-to-know request with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, asking it to identify potential lease locations and the details of the revenue estimate, which in turn would indicate how many acres of public land the administration expects to open to drilling.
All of that would seem to be public information that would be instructive for any state citizen, much less a state representative who will participate in budget deliberations and cast a vote on the final budget, and whose committee is responsible for oversight of environmental regulation.
Remarkably, the DCNR rejected Vitali's request for the information. Patrick Henderson, the governor's deputy chief of staff and chief spokesman on energy matters, characterized Vitali's request as being politically motivated. Earlier, Henderson had noted that Vitali had voted for other drilling on state lands during the Rendell administration.
Vitali did just that. But, so what? That does not satisfy the question of whether the information he seeks is public information. There's no reason for the public to be in the dark about the administration's plans, regardless of what the Rendell administration or Vitali, or both, had done in the past.
The DCNR should provide the information.