Public Parks as Cash Cows (no more)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared earlier this year that “all proceeds from the sale of our public natural resources are part of the corpus of our environmental public trust” and that the environmental trustee obligations described in the state constitution apply to ALL levels and branches of government.

I covered this same topic in my May 14, 2021 blog ON DEAF EARS as it relates to our three county parks in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Cross Creek Park in particular, which was surface leased in 2003. This 2014 map, prepared by Duquesne University grad students, reveals all the unconventional wells, in and around that park, back then:

That’s right, drilling and fracking INSIDE the parkthe whole nine yards!
Up until a few years ago, very little of the proceeds from that gas extraction was used for park improvements or conservation, with half of it regularly flowing into the county’s General Fund (Spoiler alert: It still is!)

In order to nail down the exact amount of money being siphoned off our three public parks into our county’s General Fund, I filed a Right to Know request on July 28, 2021 to find out. At the drawn-out conclusion of that process, on August 31, 2021, I asked two questions, and got these answers from Washington County’s Chief Clerk/Right-to-Know Officer:
Q: How much of the county park money from gas drilling leases and royalties has Washington County put into the General Fund to date? 
A: “Only royalty income (not lease income) is split between the general and capital expenditure fund.  Since inception, there has been a total of $17,808,032 in royalty income related to the three parks deposited into the general fund.”
Q: Are 50% of those current and future proceeds, from the county parks, still going into the General Fund?
A: “Yes.”

$17.8 million!

It’s time for the Washington County commissioners to comply with the latest Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling and use ALL of those funds as they are intended! The chairman rudely cut me off, and the commissioners have completely ignored the advice in my comments from 4 years ago, so what will it take now?
Bob

One Comment on “Public Parks as Cash Cows (no more)

  1. Washington County Commissioners have always embraced O&G. They never came to see or hear landowners complaints. The ad they did for Range Resources on TV SPEAKS VOLUMES!

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