Maintaining the freeze on new leases in state forests one of few glimmers of hope
(Harrisburg, PA – February 7, 2012) – Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) decried the passage of the so-called “compromise” drilling bill, House Bill 1950, in the Pennsylvania Senate as a major giveaway of the people’s legal rights, natural resources, and money to the Marcellus Shale drillers, and Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget, which raids a longstanding environmental conservation program to help balance the budget.
“In the space of an hour, the Senate and the governor granted the wishes of the gas drillers, but denied taxpayers, communities, and our environment basic needs,” said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture. “First, the State Senate passed the drilling bill, which had been written behind closed doors by Gov. Corbett, the Republican legislative leaders, and the drilling industry. The bill adopts one of the nation’s lowest extraction fees, weakens environmental protections over drinking water and our streams and wetlands, confers special stature on the drillers over other businesses in Pennsylvania, and destroys local rights to use zoning ordinances to manage drilling and withholds funds from any municipality that attempts to use those rights. This bill is a crippling blow to the solar plexus of our communities and our environment.
“The second punch was the presentation of Gov. Corbett’s budget which cuts spending on the environment, higher education, public assistance, and other key functions of government,” said Jarrett. “Many of these cuts will trickle down to our counties and municipalities, which are already forced to raise local taxes to make up for earlier cuts.
“The Corbett budget also steals money from environmental programs to fund the rest of government,” continued Jarrett. “For instance, he calls for taking $38.851 million from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund – totally zeroing it out – and moving it to the General Fund. The one bright spot is that the governor did not remove the moratorium on new drilling leases in our state forests, and for that, we are very grateful.
“Throughout his budget address, the governor repeated the theme, ‘We will not spend more than we have. We will not raise taxes,’” said Jarrett. “But until the governor stops giving the drillers sweetheart deals on fees and regulations, money for programs Pennsylvanians need and want will have to come from our families and small businesses, and programs that conserve the environment. We cannot let this happen.”
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that advances policies to protect and improve the state’s environment and economy. With offices in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilkes-Barre, PennFuture’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education, and assisting citizens in public advocacy. The PennFuture website is www.pennfuture.org and the blog is located at http://pennfuture.blogspot.com
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