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Game Commission to benefit from drilling leases, royalties

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Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

The state Game Commission will get one-time payments totaling nearly $5 million in addition to royalties from the sale of oil and gas extracted from game lands in Washington, Lawrence and Greene counties under an agreement the commission's board approved Wednesday.

Chesapeake Appalachia of Oklahoma City, Okla., will pay the commission a bonus of more than $3 million plus 23.25 percent of the value of oil and gas extracted from 1,201 acres of game land in Donegal and Independence townships in Washington County.

The commission also approved an agreement to allow the Hilcorp Energy Co. of Houston, Texas, to extract oil and gas from two tracts of game land on 586 acres in Pulaski, Lawrence County.

The company will make a one-time payment of more than $1.9 million to the commission plus a 20 percent royalty from the energy that is extracted from the site in Pulaski.

The Game Commission also agreed to add 34 acres of game land in Dunkard, Greene County, to an existing oil and gas extraction agreement the commission approved in 2008 with Chevron Appalachia.

The company will pay a $51,000 bonus — $1,500 per acre — to extract oil and gas on the additional land.

The energy extraction agreements were awarded by competitive bid to companies that submitted the highest percentages for royalty payments, according to commission officials.

A representative for the statewide environmental advocacy group, PennEnvironment, said the organization is concerned about the long-term effects that drilling might have on state game lands.

“The worst-case scenario would be seeing gas rigs, well pads and all the accompanying infrastructure popping up in game lands,” said Erika Staaf, the organization's clean-water advocate.

“We also don't want to start seeing the accidents and violations of environmental law associated with drilling occurring in the places where people go to hunt, or to just enjoy the woods,” she said. “This decision doesn't seem like the most prudent, long-term approach for the Game Commission to make.”

Bill Capouillez, the Game Commission's director of wildlife habitat management, said that in addition to the “significant” revenue these agreements generate, they allow the agency to “react in a prudent and environmentally-conscientious manner.”

“By way of this bid process, we can ... maximize our ability to protect and manage our natural resources to the full benefit of all sportsmen and wildlife,” he said.

The bonus money the commission receives will be deposited in a fund “for the future purchase of wildlife habitats, lands, or other uses incidental to hunting, fur-taking and wildlife resource management.”

The Commission also approved energy agreements with companies operating in Cambria, Lycoming and McKean counties.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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