[ State Supreme Court Rules Leasing Public Land for Fracking Betrayed Government’s Constitutional Duties ]
Harrisburg, PA — Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state government must act as trustees for public natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment. The decision overturns a lower court decision and rules that the state government did not comply with its constitutional duties to Pennsylvanians when it acted to lease public land to oil and gas interests without directing the profits toward conservation efforts, and that future leasing decisions must include an assessment of the public interest.
The ruling comes in response to a case originally filed by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation in March 2012 over a series of short-sighted government decisions to address state budget gaps through an unprecedented expansion of the state’s oil and gas leasing program. Through this attempt to convert public natural resources into quick cash for the government, Pennsylvanians lost nearly a tenth of their state forests to private fracking interests.
“This is a major victory for the people of Pennsylvania, who have repeatedly asked the government to put people over profits and hard won environmental protections before stopgap budget measures,” said Joanne Kilgour, Director of Sierra Club Pennsylvania. “The Environmental Rights Amendment recognizes the people’s right to clean air and water and the preservation of public resources. Today the court confirmed that the governor and legislature must take these constitutional duties seriously.”
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