Friday, June 1, 2018

Sen. Baker Introduces Bill To Declare DRBC Fracking Ban A Taking Of Property

On Friday, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) introduced Senate Bill 1189 that would declare, as a matter of law, an oil and gas fracking moratorium enacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission would constitute an act of eminent domain and a taking of property for which compensated would be required from DRBC.
“For years, landowners in the Delaware River drainage basin have lived under a gas drilling moratorium imposed on them by the Delaware River Basin Commission,” said Sen. Baker in her memo to colleagues on the legislation. “This moratorium has prevented impacted landowners from realizing the economic benefits that accrue to landowners in nearly every other part of Pennsylvania.
“Now, the DRBC, with support from the Wolf administration, is turning that moratorium into a permanent ban,” Sen. Baker said.  “As a matter of policy, this action seems a serious misjudgment. As a matter of fairness, it is even worse, for it slams the door of opportunity on affected landowners by significantly diminishing the value of their property.
“In my judgment, such deprivation of property rights constitutes a “taking” just the same as if the property were condemned for a transportation project or for any other public use,” explained Sen. Baker.  “As a result, this economic justice proposal declares that a ban implemented by the DRBC will constitute a taking that must be paid for by the DRBC.
“The legislation will provide that impacted landowners will be entitled to compensation calculated in the same manner as is used to determine value in any other eminent domain action,” she added.
The operative language in the bill says--
“A ban by the commission that affects lands in an impacted county shall be deemed to have rendered the oil and gas estates, including, but not limited to, the oil and gas estates located in the impacted counties, worthless and will deprive the owners of the estates of all economically viable use of the oil and gas estates.
“A ban under section 4 shall constitute a taking by the commission of the property of the owners of the oil and gas estates in the impacted counties and the owners shall be entitled to be paid appropriate and just compensation by the commission, in accordance with law, as a remedy for the taking.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Yaw (R-Lycoming), Eichelberger (R-Blair), Vulakovich (R-Allegheny), Hutchinson (R-Venango), Wagner (R-York), Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny), Folmer (R-Lebanon), Vogel (R-Beaver), Bartolotta (R-Washington), Alloway (R-Franklin), Brooks (R-Crawford), White (R-Indiana), Regan (R-Cumberland), DiSanto (R-Perry) and Martin (R-Lancaster).
A sponsor summary is available.
In October 2016, Sen. Baker was one of 3 state Senators who asked to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Wayne County landowners in Federal Court in an attempt to lift the Delaware River Basin Commission’s existing defacto fracking moratorium.  That effort was unsuccessful when the Court denied the request in January 2017.
In March of 2017 the federal lawsuit was thrown out of federal court.
The Delaware River Basin Commission has taken extensive pubic comment on its proposed permanent fracking ban, but announced at the beginning of April it did not have a timetable for finalizing the ban.
The House Republicans on the State Government Committee are scheduled to have a hearing on the Delaware River Basin Commission June 11 and one of the issues is expected to be the proposed fracking ban.
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