Two Greene County creeks are doubling as drilling sites for local energy companies, joining the more than 1,400 acres of public waterways across Pennsylvania leased to natural gas companies by the state in the past year.
Sections of Ten Mile and Dunkard creeks, both state-owned waterways, were recently leased by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to three separate companies for horizontal drilling.
According to the state’s Conservation and Natural Resources Act, DCNR is permitted to enter into lease agreements for the extraction of fuel, oil, natural gas or any other mineral deposits on commonwealth-owned lands. DCNR receives the bonus and royalty payments, which are deposited into the Oil and Gas Lease Fund for conservation, recreation and flood control programs.
“Although DCNR does not manage the riverbeds as it does state parks and forests, the agreements are negotiated by DCNR because we have expertise based on our more than 60-year history of gas leasing on state forest land,” said Christina Novak, DCNR press secretary.
Novak said drilling activity is “nothing you would notice on the surface” because it occurs deep below the waterway.
DCNR netted nearly $6 million since last year. While most waterway leases were signed during Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration, Novak said one $6 million waterway lease occurred in May 2010 during Gov. Ed Rendell’s term. Eight of nine waterway leases were signed between March 2012 and March 2014.
Most recently, Chevron signed a lease March 12 for 57 acres of Dunkard Creek for $228,000 with DCNR.
Two-and-a-half acres of Ten Mile were leased to EQT Production Co., which has a local office in Washington. The company will pay a $10,200 bonus to DCNR.
Underneath another section of Ten Mile, Colorado-based Vantage Energy signed a lease Jan. 31 for 80 acres at a cost of $321,692. In addition to the bonus payment, all companies are required to pay a 20 percent royalty rate.
Media spokespersons for EQT and Chevron did not respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday. State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, said she was not made aware of the drilling leases for Ten Mile and Dunkard creeks.