Thursday, November 26, 2015

PA Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Challenge To Use Of Oil & Gas Fund Monies

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday the PA Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a January 7 Commonwealth Court decision upholding the right of the General Assembly and the governor to transfer monies from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund to the General Fund and the use of those funds for DCNR State Park and State Forest Operations.
PA Environmental Defense Foundation filed the original lawsuit against Gov. Rendell for his leasing of nearly 137,000 acres of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling and then transferring $383 million of the proceeds from the Oil and Gas Fund to the General Fund to balance the state budget.
Gov. Rendell also used Oil and Gas Fund revenue to fund administrative and personnel costs of State Parks and State Forest Operations.  The practice continued during the Corbett Administration.
This year, Gov. Wolf’s original budget proposed to provide an additional $17.1 million in General Fund monies to DCNR to begin the process of weaning the agency off the Oil and Gas Fund.
PEDF based its lawsuit, in part, on Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment to the state Constitution.
With the makeup of the PA Supreme Court now dramatically changed as a result of the November 3 election, it will be interesting to see how the Court decides this issue.
The PA Supreme Court’s 2013 decision overturning portions of the Act 13 drilling law was based, again in part, on the Environmental Rights Amendment.  The new court, with new members, may be more sympathetic to that argument.
PA Supreme Court To Hear Appeal Of Oil & Gas Fund Money Transfers

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