(Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and natural gas development in state parks and forests.

The move restores the ban lifted by his predecessor, Tom Corbett, a Republican.

Officials in Pennsylvania were not immediately available to say how much gas and oil energy companies produce from state forest and park land.

Wolf, a Democrat, generally supports fracking, but called in his inaugural speech this month for it to be done safely with less impact on the environment.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the most common method of drilling to release gas from shale rock.

It involves blasting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals to release the gas, and has been linked to water and soil contamination when untreated fracking waste is improperly released into the environment.

Drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania has transformed the state into an energy powerhouse and produced economic prosperity from jobs and royalties over the past several years.

Production of gas in the Marcellus, the biggest and fastest growing U.S. shale gas field centered under Pennsylvania and West Virginia, was expected to reach about 16.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), up from just 2.0 bcfd five years ago, according to federal data.

A little over 20 percent of the gas produced in the United States is expected to come from the Marcellus in 2015, according to federal data.


(Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by James Dalgleish)