Commonwealth Court Upholds Transfer Of Oil And Gas Funds
Commonwealth Court Wednesday issued an opinion in a lawsuit brought by the PA Environmental Defense Fund and other groups 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 to support DCNR State Park and State Forest operations.
The decision also upholds the provisions of the Fiscal Code bill passed in July directing DCNR to lease additional lands for drilling to bring in $95 million in additional state revenue for the General Fund.
Budget Secretary Charles Zogby already said in December he did not think the state would see any of that revenue in FY 2014-15 leaving the question of additional drilling up to Gov.-Elect Wolf.
John Childe, an attorney for PEDF told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, they will appeal the ruling.
Patrick Henderson, the Governor’s Energy Executive, said the Administration’s lawyers are still reviewing the opinion, but he called the decision “a very resounding victory for the authority of both the executive and the legislative branch,” in a story by the Post-Gazette.
“We’re appreciative, pleased, but not surprised with the ruling simply because we’ve always believed that this was a matter of policy choices and it was clearly permissible under both the statute and the constitution,” he said.
The concluding section of the Court ruling states: “For the reasons set forth above, PEDF has failed to meet its burden with respect to its constitutional challenges to Sections 1602-E and 1603-E of the Fiscal Code. Summary relief will, therefore, be granted in favor of Commonwealth Respondents and against PEDF on those challenges.
“PEDF’s constitutional challenges to the 2008 Lease Sale, January 2010 Lease Sale, and the Anadarko Lease Sale are dismissed due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction because of the absence of indispensable parties.
“As to PEDF’s claim that the Lease Fund is a “trust fund” and its contents must therefore only be used to advance the purposes of the Environmental Rights Amendment, PEDF’s application for summary relief will be denied and Commonwealth Respondents’ cross-application will be granted.
“Finally, because we conclude that under the CNRA, DCNR has the exclusive statutory authority to determine whether to sell or lease the Commonwealth’s natural resources for oil and natural gas extraction, Commonwealth Respondents’ application for summary relief, asking us to hold that the Governor may override DCNR’s decisions under the CNRA, will be denied. As to all other claims subject to the parties’ cross-applications for summary relief, the applications will be denied.”
Click Here for a copy of the opinion.
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