DEC plan may expand gas drilling on forest land

A state Department of Environmental Conservation plan released this month leaves open the possibility of hydraulic fracturing and expanded natural gas development on state forest land.

The Strategic Plan for State Forest Management, finalized Dec. 29, will allow the state to lease the gas rights to the Marcellus Shale formation beneath certain state-owned forest parcels, but only after public hearings are held on each lease offer.

A determination on allowing high-volume hydrofracking on forest land, however, will be made after both the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency complete their reviews of the gas stimulation technique, which involves the use of high-pressure, chemical-laced water to unlock natural gas from tight shale formations.

The DEC will issue a second draft of its permitting guidelines for fracking in the beginning of June; the EPA study is expected to take at least two years before initial results are released.

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