Judge will wait on decision over Corbett's forest drilling plan
Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson says he will wait until the state budget is completed before weighing in on a lawsuit aimed at blocking the Corbett administration from leasing more public land for drilling.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt additional leasing of public land and the transfer of $117 million from the state Oil and Gas Lease Fund for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) operating budget.
In May, Governor Corbett issued an executive order ending a four-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing of park and forest land in a effort to raise $75 million dollars for this year’s budget.
The lawsuit was the subject of a three-day hearing earlier this month. Both current and past DCNR employees testified that they were reluctant to offer up public land for natural gas development.
In an order dated last week, Brobson explained why he wants to wait.
“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. Such interference runs afoul of the principle of separation of powers.”
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Brobson, a Republican elected to the bench in 2009, has ambitions to move up in the Judiciary, said people who know him. Lawyers who have advocated in his courtroom say he calls the “balls and strikes” as he sees them and gives deference to the Legislature, but not in a pandering sort of way.
Others who know him say he’s playing it straight down the middle as a judge should. His discretion against moving the Judiciary into legislative territory also keeps him from being the judge who rattled the cages, which, an observer said helps position him in the future if he’s interested in the high court.
Brobson was a Harrisburg lawyer who worked for years in the commercial litigation section at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, along with Mary Hannah Leavitt – now his colleague on the Commonwealth Court bench.