Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Court waiting for state budget before ruling on drilling leases

By Jim Boyle | Jun 10, 2014

A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge will not rule on a lawsuit seeking injunctive

relief against Governor Tom Corbett's plan to lease more state land for drilling until the 2015 budget has been finalized and approved.

Judge Kevin Brobson said a ruling by him before the release of the full details of Corbett's proposed budget would be a violation of the separate branches of government, because the ruling could have an inappropriate impact on the budget-planning process.

"The Court is mindful that any decision on the application, one way or another, during the pending budget process could affect the negotiations and decision making of legislators and the Governor’s Office that are inherent in that process," wrote Brobson in a memo published last week. "Such interference runs afoul of the principle of separation of powers."

The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation wants to put a halt on Corbett's plan to lease public and forest land for gas drilling that could add up to approximately $75 million in revenue in this year's budget. Instead, the PEDF proposed transferring $117 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and into the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In the suit, PEDF claims previous Governor Ed Rendell and Corbett violated Article 1, Section 27 pf the state constitution when they began leasing public land for natural gas development.

The section, known as the Environmental Rights Amendment, reads as the following, "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."

Once the budget is finalized, Brobson said, PEDF can file for a status conference, which will be scheduled as expeditiously as possible.

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