Energy. Environment. Economy.

Second lawsuit filed to halt drilling in state parks and forests

A drilling convoy heads through the Loyalsock State Forest.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks

A drilling convoy heads through the Loyalsock State Forest.

An environmental group has filed a lawsuit challenging the Corbett administration’s plan to lease more state park and forest land for oil and gas development. The Corbett Administration lifted a moratorium on new leases in state parks and forests with an executive order last May to help plug a budget gap. The lawsuit filed by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is the first to challenge that executive order directly, but is the second suit aimed at preventing more drilling on state lands.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s challenge, filed Thursday in Commonwealth Court, is based on the state’s environmental rights amendment and is a direct result of the Riverkeeper’s successful challenge of Act 13. In that case, the Supreme Court invoked article 1, section 27 of the state constitution, also referred to as the environmental rights amendment, to strike down key aspects of the state’s new drilling law. The Riverkeeper’s latest challenge of Corbett’s executive order could serve as a test case for how the courts continue to interpret the state’s environmental rights amendment.

Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum said Corbett’s executive order on opening up more state land to natural gas development “invites and encourages the frackers to come right up to the edge of our public parks, destroying the adjacent communities as well as destroying the park lands themselves.”

A separate lawsuit, filed back in 2012 by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation — also based on the environmental rights amendment — challenges the Governor’s authority to lease that land, and to use the proceeds for the general fund. After a series of hearings, the case is now in the hands of seven Commonwealth Court judges.

Corbett’s Energy Executive, Patrick Henderson defended the administration’s policy, which is projected to raise $95 million in state revenue and “specifically prohibits leasing which would result in any new or additional surface disturbance in state lands.”


  • DeanMarshall

    Gov. Corbett has sold out to the Gas
    industry and he must be removed!

    • Awesome_Mom

      VOTE OUT Toxic Tom Corbutt, Karen Boback and Lisa Baker!!!!!

  • paulroden

    Yes, indeed, Corbett has received over $1.4 million dollars from the oil and gas industry, plus travel and accommodations for he and his wife from same. He can’t do enough for the dirty energy industry. He tried to over ride local zoning ordinances with Act 13, refused to tax the extraction of gas, removed the moratorium on drilling in PA State Parks and Forests, removed the head of the DCNR, when he opposed more drilling leases in State Parks and Forest’s, directed all DEP inspectors, the few that are left in the agency, to submit all inspection reports and proposed citations for violations of environmental regulations to his office before issuing a fine to a gas driller, ordered the Department of Health to not call citizens back about complaints or questions about fracking along with a gag order not to speak at public meetings or forums on fracking. He removed references to climate change and global warming from DEP’s website. He has not responded to the Auditor General’s report on the DEP, and he has buried and delayed any environmental and health impact study on gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. It states quite clearly in the PA Constitution of the Commonwealth of PA : Article I Section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution states:

    The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic 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.
    So if Corbett, or like I call him “Governor Corporate” is re-elected, he should be impeached and removed from office with all deliberate speed, because he has clearly violated his oath of office on protecting the environment and providing for an adequate public education for all as well.

  • pjgills

    Not only is Gov Corbett’s wrongheaded and shortsighted decisions costing us by ruining our parks, now we will also bear the costs of yet another lawsuit filed against this administration. I wonder if he’s going to hire outside counsel again? I’m so annoyed he’s portraying himself as some amazing fiscal defender, when he’s cost the Commonwealth millions with all the stupid decisions he makes, then lawsuits are filed, and he either loses in court or just gives up.

    • pghsheep

      The clean up will go on and on. This is not a brown-field that can be easily repaired.

  • MrPittsburgh

    ‘One Term Tommy’

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