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Time to step up to the plate

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2010/12/14 9:53
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Fifty years ago, a forward-looking Pennsylvania legislature followed the advice of Doc Goddard and other conservation minded individuals in creating the Oil and Gas Lease Fund. This Fund receives all money from leasing state land for oil and gas development and from royalties received from oil and gas production on state land. All the money from leasing is used for conservation, for buying state park land, state forest land and for maintenance projects on state forestland. More on that HERE: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/gasleasing/

But now, Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler), the new Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is seeking co-sponsors for legislation that would abolish the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and direct the money to an independent agency. That agency would then determine how much money, if any, to return to DCNR for key projects and conservation programs that protect and restore our precious natural resources.

If this bill became law, DCNR would feel pressure to bring in additional revenue by opening more state forests for natural gas drilling, despite its own studies that show that further drilling will damage the ecological integrity and wild character of our state forest system.

The Pennsylvania Camo Coalition will have an action alert up on our site in the next few days. The target of the alert will be House memebers, asking them NOT to co-sponsor the legislation.

I will post back here when that action alert is available. In the meantime, I urge all readers to contact their House member and tell them you are opposed to this bill. You can find you House members here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/l ... representatives_alpha.cfm

For those of you interested in reading a great Op-Ed on the history of the Fund, as well as how much the legislature took from it in the last two years read this:http://www.pafordemocracy.com/node/301 The writer, Rick Carlson, served as a policy director for the former Department of Environmental Resources and the DCNR.

Posted on: 2011/1/13 12:10


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Is there any information on the current balance in the Oil and Gas Fund or what the projected leasing revenues will be over the next ten years or so? It would also be useful to understand how the Oil and Gas Fund is managed and if there is a long term financial plan that projects investment returns and annual spending targets? This would be helpful to discuss the subject from an informed position with my legislators.

Posted on: 2011/1/13 12:29


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Franklin, great questions that I do not know the answer to.

But I do know this. Since 1955 or so, the amount of the money that went into the fund was approx $4-5 million, give or take, per year. Never much for the legislators to stand up and take note of.

However, back in 2007 or so, the state leased the first part of the state forest for Marcellus exploration, and the fund was handed roughly $190 million. This raised lots of eyebrows, and the great state forest gas boom was started. Subsequent leases brought in tens of millions more. The legislators and the Gov took all that money, except for a small amount, to balance the budget in 2009 and 2010.

That money was for conservation...and they took it. They took what is ours, our childrens and future generations. The intent of the fund was that, if we take from the forest, we need to give something back.

I don't believe there is a balance in the fund, other than a few million dollars, but that is used every year for state park and state forest maintenance projects and such. That is part of DCNR's budget. I believe it is spent down every year.

As for projected amounts, it could be in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Just think, every well that is on state forest land (if the state owns the mineral rights) will be pumping out gas for years on which the state will get a 15-20% royalty. Not to mention if the Governor-elect lifts the ban on further leasing, more land will be leased and the lease payments will not go into the fund. This is HUGE!

Please note, the royalties that the state receives has nothing to do with the proposed severence tax. Those are two different issues.

With the huge backlog of state park and state forest maintenance projects, these royalties could fund those improvements AND put people to work. Instead the money is going to be hijaccked to the General Fund. We could have another CCC in Pennsylvania if we chose to

I find it ironic that many of those that don't want a severence tax are quick to take the money that was legislatively bequethed to the the citizens of the Commonwelath in 1955.

Posted on: 2011/1/13 13:16


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Thank you for the response. I guess I have some digging to do to understand the details. I'll post any key points I discover.

Posted on: 2011/1/13 14:00


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Quote:
That money was for conservation...and they took it. They took what is ours, our childrens and future generations. The intent of the fund was that, if we take from the forest, we need to give something back.


That really ticks me off and to think, after all the talk they did about closing state parks and the fact that they cut many jobs related to public land and parks including concessions and lifeguards at swimming areas, and they are bringing in hundreds of millions to feed their pockets and give themselves bonuses and rediculously raising their pensions in Harrisburg. What a shameless crock of #OOPS#!

Politicians are greedy selfish, sellouts. All they do is prostitute themselves out to get their hand in the cookie jar, I can't stand politics and what politicians have become, how they screw things up for their own interests. It's hard to find anyone in the government who really honestly stands for something because it is right, but more for what is in their better interest and their own futures.

I usually don't get involved with any diluted political debates on here because it is usually just a big #OOPS# fight anyway with no real winner.

I think if I were Tom Ridge I would quit my day job so I can retire to kicking the #OOPS# out of Ed Rendell for being such a slimy bastard.

But that's just my opinion, you know.

Posted on: 2011/1/13 16:58
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Re: Time to step up to the plate

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2009/5/29 6:40
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I know how they will use it, they'll vote themselves a payraise!! then when the budget can't be met, they'll close the parks down.
I've already sent letters to those involved. doubt it will work, money talks, and I ain't got none!
Ed, I appreciate the work your doing, I just hope it's not a waste of time. I think the result of this issue will be a tell tale sign. If this deal goes through, I would say kiss our state goodbye. if we can stop this, we may have a chance.
Jake, I hear ya!!

Posted on: 2011/1/13 18:21


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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gee, now where do you think the independant agency will come from? ya think they will be tied to the gas industry??

Posted on: 2011/1/14 7:45


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Ed, I really like the idea of a PA CCC. we've got lots of unemployed, lots of young unemployed. be great to put people to work instead of providing handouts. the original CCC was one of the greatest programs, be nice to see something similar today. young people will learn trades and make some money, never a bad thing. could be a good step in getting this country back to building and making things again, giving people a sense of accomplishment. instead of cutting funding for DEP and such agencies, let's expand them, start programs to teach and learn skills. I wouldn't argue about any of that money being used for such purposes, but just putting it into the general fund, for politicians to handle, give out, and misuse, forget it.

Posted on: 2011/1/14 7:52


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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So far I have found that the Oil and Gas Lease Fund is controlled by DCNR and funds are used at the desecration of the secretary of DCNR. I have not found any long range plan. It appears to be managed year to year. Likely due to the comparatively low revenues in the past.

Given the larger consistent source of revenue coming from the gas leases it would be an advantage for the department to have such a plan. Without a plan to communicate spending plans it just becomes a pot of money ripe for the taking. In addition I'm not generally comfortable with any department having a large fund to spend at their own discretion. That is scandal waiting to happen. The same is true of an external "independent" agency that would have access to the funds unless proper checks and balances are in place.

Posted on: 2011/1/14 8:23


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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2009/10/22 20:38
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wow, thanks for this heads-up on this 'bad idea'... I'll definitely contact my rep. and let them know my full opposition to this, particularly with the absence of a severance tax (which I won't hold my breath for given the incoming administration and their connection to the 'special interests')

Posted on: 2011/1/14 9:51


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Jake not sure what you meant by the tom ridge/rendell statement, but you do realize ridge is now the head lobbyist for the marcellus shale coalition, right?
As for this money I would aim for the dcnr getting a small percentage of the money as a realistic goal, My understanding when the legislature changed the rule last year so dcnr did not get all of the money, is that the dcnr can receive up to 50 million dollars out of the fund each year, but that is not guaranteed.

Posted on: 2011/1/14 11:08


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Quote:
Jake not sure what you meant by the tom ridge/rendell statement, but you do realize ridge is now the head lobbyist for the marcellus shale coalition, right?


No I did not know this, I am shocked!!! I was just going from the hip, I just think Rendell has had a lot of poor policy. I thought Ridge was a much better governor overall. But that really surprises me. Must just be a sign of the times. Even more disgusted now. What a shame, there is just no good side to politics, and I always considered Tom Ridge more conservation minded, at least in the past.

Must have been all the pictures of Tom Ridge and his wife on the state park maps and brochures clouding my judgement, remember that ? Deception. The true policy of our government.

Posted on: 2011/1/14 12:25
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Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Quote:

reds wrote:
Jake not sure what you meant by the tom ridge/rendell statement, but you do realize ridge is now the head lobbyist for the marcellus shale coalition, right?
As for this money I would aim for the dcnr getting a small percentage of the money as a realistic goal, My understanding when the legislature changed the rule last year so dcnr did not get all of the money, is that the dcnr can receive up to 50 million dollars out of the fund each year, but that is not guaranteed.


I doubt it's that high. The state budget for Conservation and Natural Resources is $91M.

I'd like to see a trust built up in the $200M category. Invest this in Pa state bonds. That would yield an annual return of somewhere around $10M that would be spent annually on state conservation projects by DCNR.

(I'm just ballparking a 5% annual return on the bonds.)

Posted on: 2011/1/14 12:26


Re: Time to step up to the plate

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Ten million would go a long way when you got people like Maurice out there creating better stream habitat with big structures, bank restoration and planting trees along the streams in their spare time.

It would be nice if there were a goal in our state to restore so many miles of degraded stream a year.

I know there had been talk and rumors about restoring the Codorus in around York which, several miles below the Regulation water in York had been basically turned into a wide, shallow, flood control canal with no trees for shade after several floods in the early part of the century.


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Posted on: 2011/1/14 12:38
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Re: Time to step up to the plate

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2009/10/15 13:45
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Quote:

JakesLeakyWaders wrote:
Ten million would go a long way when you got people like Maurice out there creating better stream habitat with big structures, bank restoration and planting trees along the streams in their spare time.

It would be nice if there were a goal in our state to restore so many miles of degraded stream a year.

I know there had been talk and rumors about restoring the Codorus in around York which, several miles below the Regulation water in York had been basically turned into a wide, shallow, flood control canal with no trees for shade after several floods in the early part of the century.


A large portion of those funds come from the Growing Greener fund which would have had a huge windfall from irreverence taxes if that legislation would have been passed. We're talking well over $100 million per year to Growing Greener.

Posted on: 2011/1/14 12:53



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