Share This Page

State, environmental group deal releases money for DCNR operations

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 1:36 p.m.

The state agreed to a partial settlement in a Commonwealth Court case challenging Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to lease more state forest and park land for natural gas drilling, Corbett's office said on Friday.

As part of the agreement, Corbett agreed not to lease more land until the court decides the case. In return, the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation agreed to drop its request for the court to prevent the state from using revenue from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay for general operations at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Without this settlement, DCNR's capacity to preserve Pennsylvania's natural treasures would have been decimated,” Corbett said. “We cannot allow our commitment to protecting Pennsylvania's state parks and forests to be held hostage during the duration of this lawsuit.”

The foundation had asked the court to prevent new leasing of state-owned land and to freeze the use of existing funds for DCNR operations until the case was decided. Its lawyers argued that using the money generated from leases for purposes other than specific, limited reasons could be unconstitutional.

Under the agreement, the department will continue to prepare for leasing of state-owned land but not take action.

John Childe, lead attorney for the foundation, said the agreement establishes a “good and quick framework” to get the case decided, by setting a timeline for attorneys to file court documents.

Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear arguments in October.

“I'm confident we'll get a decision by the end of the year,” Childe said.

DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said that without the partial settlement, the department would have taken a $120 million hit.

The agreement, she said, “will allow the critical operations of DCNR to continue, including all state parks remaining open and staff being available during our busiest time of year, and no interruption to the work of our Bureau of Forestry.”

The bureau manages state forests, monitors gas development on forest land, fights fires and pests, among its operations, Ferretti said.

Corbett signed a budget this month that anticipates $95 million from expanded drilling leases in state forests and parks.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.