Friday, June 23, 2017

Post-Gazette: Court Decision Raises Questions On How Legislature Can Spend DCNR Drilling Proceeds

The Post-Gazette Friday published a story by Laura Legere on questions being raised by the PA Supreme Court decision this week declaring unconstitutional previous budget bills diverting proceeds from Shale gas drilling on DCNR forest land to the General Fund to balance the state’s budget.
She noted the General Assembly in the past, the House Republican budget passed in April and Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget would divert about $100 million from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay for the agency’s daily operations.
Nearly one-third of DCNR’s total proposed budget for next fiscal year is supported by Oil and Gas Lease Fund revenues Legere reported.
Aides to Senate Republican leaders said the decision will have minor ramifications because they money from the Fund will be used for conservation purposes by supporting DCNR.
John Childe, an attorney for the PA Environmental Defense Foundation who brought the successful lawsuit told Legere spending oil and gas royalties from the Fund on DCNR operations does not comply with the court opinion.
Former DCNR and DEP Secretary John Quigley pointed to a 2004 Auditor General’s report and a 1991 guidance letter from the state Attorney General advising DCNR and its predecessor agency the Oil and Gas Lease Fund monies had to be used directly for physical enhancement or conservation of natural resources.
Quigley said some of these questions may be answered in future phases of the case, since the PA Supreme Court remanded the case back to Commonwealth Court for further action consistent with the opinion the Court issued.
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