Pennsylvania has a special fund into which lease money and royalties from oil and gas operations is placed.
Governors Rendell and Corbett diverted millions of dollars from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to support ongoing state programs, and the General Assembly went along with it. This fund, from the beginning, was clearly dedicated for conservation purposes only, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation took exception to the fiscal shenanigans.
PEDF counsel John Childe felt the language of Article I, Section 27 of our state Constitution imposed clear fiduciary responsibilities on the commonwealth, and that the commonwealth was the public trustee for our natural resources. The PEDF sued the governors, alleging that revenue from oil and gas leases was being spent in ways that were not related to conservation.
On June 20, the state Supreme Court chastised Commonwealth Court and affirmed Article I, Section 27 of the Constitution, which states, “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 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.”
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The highest court agreed with nearly all of PEDF’s arguments. Every public official in Pennsylvania takes an oath to uphold the Constitution, and every county and municipality and all elected officials are affected by the Supreme Court decision.
Dan Alters, Bellefonte