Friday, June 30, 2017

PEDF Asks Court To Determine If $383 Million Transferred From Oil & Gas Lease Fund Remains In The Public Trust

As a follow up to the June 20 PA Supreme Court decision declaring the 2009 and 2010 Fiscal Code and other amendments diverting money from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Fund to the General Fund unconstitutional, the PA Environmental Defense Foundation filed a motion Thursday with Commonwealth Court asking the Court to determine if $383 million in Shale gas upfront and lease payments remains in the public trust to be used only for conservation purposes.
Citing an affidavit from former DCNR Secretary John Quigley saying $383 million in Shale gas payments to DCNR Oil and Gas Lease Fund resulted directly from Shale gas leasing in State Forests.
The motion says in part, “Thousands of acres of State Forest land are no longer available to the people of the Commonwealth. The lease and bonus payments directly result in the conversion of the corpus of the public trust to private industrial development.
“The funds from the lease and bonus payments must remain in the trust and must be devoted to the conservation and maintenance of our public natural resources, consistent with the plain language of [Article I,] Section 27 [Environmental Rights Amendment].”
If Commonwealth Court finds $383 million remains in public trust as determined by the PA Supreme Court decision, the General Assembly might be required to pay the money back to the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, however, courts have been reluctant to stray into this territory.  At the very least, it presents an interesting legal issue.
Click Here for a copy of the motion.  Click Here for a copy of Quigley’s affidavit.
For more information and background on the case, visit the PA Environmental Defense Foundation website.
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