State parks won’t close, lawsuit goes on

An environmental foundation has reached a temporary agreement with the Governor’s office in an attempt to keep state parks open during a lawsuit.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation is suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The foundation says it wants to stop the Governor from leasing state park and forest land for natural gas drilling.

“They’re our natural heritage and they’re part of a trust that says those interests belong to the people, not the governor,” said John Childe, attorney for the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation.

Childe went on to say that another goal is to ensure the Governor uses all the existing money from natural gas leasing to improve the parks. Right now, some goes back into the general fund for other purposes.

“A lot of the infrastructure that’s apart of them need repair and replacement and restoration,” said Childe. “We could protect that area and we could get the funds back to DCNR so they could restore the parks and forests.”

But the funding for the parks is directly tied to the money from natural gas leasing. Without that money this summer, state parks say they would have to shut down during the busiest part of the season. The Governor’s office reached a temporary agreement with the environmental foundation, saying it would hold off on signing new leases so long as the money from existing leases could still be used to fund the parks.

Governor Corbett says the drilling is not currently disrupting park activity.

“The drills are off-site, off the land, six thousand feet below the surface, going in and extracting the gas from the lands that have already been subject to the leases,” he said.

He added that some nearby property owners are drilling in the area anyway.

“So if they’re already there at least let us get our gas before it gets trapped down there where we can never get to it,” Governor Corbett said.

The lawsuit is still moving forward. Both sides say they expect it to be resolved by the end of the calendar year.

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