Court will wait to rule on Pa. state lands leasing plan

A Commonwealth Court judge will wait until after the state budget is adopted to decide whether to block new natural gas leases under state parks and forests.

Judge P. Kevin Brobson said in an order last week that he will consider an environmental group’s petition to stop the state from leasing more land and transferring money out of a special conservation fund only after a budget is enacted so he won’t interfere with the ongoing negotiations.

The state budget deadline is July 1.

“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,” he wrote. “Such interference runs afoul of the principle of separation of powers.”

He added that the court can rule on the legality of laws once they are enacted, but “there is no place carved out in our constitution for the court to rule on the legality of budget proposals.”

Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to raise $75 million in the next fiscal year by leasing state parks and forests to companies that can extract the gas underneath the new leases without causing new surface disturbances. His budget proposal also calls for transferring $117 million out of a special conservation fund to cover the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ operating expenses.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the proposed lease sale and fund transfer until the court has ruled in its larger case on the constitutionality of state lands leasing. Current and former DCNR officials testified during a recent three-day hearing that they have reservations about opening more public lands for gas extraction.

Laura Legere:


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

High court strikes down Pa. law on shale gas

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional major provisions of Act 13, the state’s 2012 oil and gas drilling law.

U.S. appeals court hears arguments in Clean Power Plan case

Opponents contend the carbon-cutting plan unveiled by the EPA will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs.

Legislators consider lifelines as Pa.'s One Call bill nears sunset

State lawmakers have little time to decide whether to overhaul the safe digging bill or preserve it unchanged for one more year.

In gas drilling country, landowners feel duped over royalty payments

Landowners bitterly dispute the sums that some drillers have been taking from royalty check already diminished by a collapse in prices.

Peters may limit gas drilling to industrial areas

Township officials say they need to revise their zoning ordinance to comply with state regulations.

Energy policies of the presidential candidates debated

Donald Trump said he can live with local rules on shale gas drilling, while Hillary Clinton supported drilling as secretary of state.

<--Google analytics Ends-->