Elizabeth Regan

Along with a coalition of conservation and outdoor recreation groups, state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Havertown, will hold a news conference to call on Gov. Tom Corbett to hold public hearings about proposed natural gas development in Loyalsock State Forest.

The news conference will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda.

Anadarko Petroleum and Southwestern Energy Co. sparked the controversial proposal as they own about 50 percent of the subsurface rights and have requested access to extract natural gas, according to department officials.

They claim that on some 7,000 of the 25,000 acres, the state cannot prohibit surface access, according to a previous Sun-Gazette article.

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, questions the timing.

"My question is, why the rush to drill on state forest lands?" Mirabito asked.

He said as time goes on, drilling technology is enhanced so that less ground is disturbed. Even in the last three years, there have been "incredible changes in technology so less area is affected by gas drilling," he said.

Mirabito said this issue isn't just a concern to environmentalists, but to many hunters and people who enjoy the outdoors.

"This is not necessarily people being opposed to gas drilling, it's people saying, 'Do we really need to drill right now in our pristine state forest,' " he said.

He emphasized that people have a "constitutional obligation to protect it, our state forests for future generations."

In addition to Vitali, who is Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, also expected to attend and speak are Adam Garber, PennEnvironment; Steve Stroman, PennFuture; Jeff Schmidt, Sierra Club's Pennsylvania chapter; Curt Ashtenfelter, Keystone Trails Association; and Paul Zeph, Audubon Pennsylvania.