Another blow to the new Pennsylvania state budget — but good news for environmentalists: Gov. Corbett won’t let energy companies drill on public land until a lawsuit challenging the practice is resolved.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation filed suit to halt all drilling in state forests back in 2012. But when Governor Tom Corbett announced earlier this year his plans to lift a moratorium on new forest leases to fill a budget gap, the Environmental Defense Foundation sought an injunction to halt any new drilling.
State officials had planned to raise $95 million in revenue from new leases of state-owned land.
PennLive explains what Corbett gets in return
The Corbett administration has agreed not to lease any more state land for drilling until the court makes a ruling in the case, and in return the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation has agreed to drop its request for the court to prevent the state from using revenues from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay for general operations at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The state budget made DCNR, which manages state parks and forests, heavily dependent on money from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, but testimony has been given in the case that money from that fund is supposed to be used only for specific limited purposes. Using the money generated from exploitation of state lands for other purposes could be unconstitutional, according to the argument from the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation, which asked the judge to prevent any new leasing and any use of the existing lease funds for DCNR operations until the case was fully argued and decided.
In other words: Environmentalists are concerned that the state funds environmental protection efforts using money from environmentally destructive practices — but are willing to let it go, for now, since Corbett is halting the leases of public lands for drilling.