Natural Gas NOW
Under questioning by Rep. Jon Fritz, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale slammed our two major river basin commissions and their spending habits.
This is Part II of our coverage of Pennsylvania Rep. Jon Fritz’s questioning of other state officials in defense of landowner rights. Part I covered Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s arrogant performance and DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell’s flustered response when Fritz sprang a “what about the DRBC” question on him after leading him to admit drilling was safe. Fritz also questioned Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale about our two major river basin commissions and their performance. That was, to say the least, eye-opening.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was asked by the Pennsylvania legislature to audit both of Pennsylvania’s major river basin commissions; those for the Delaware (DRBC) and Susquehanna River (SRBC) basins. His office completed those audits and reported on them a few months ago. Rep. Jon Fritz picked up on the results during questioning of DePasquale as the latter appeared before the House Appropriations Committee:
Depasquale was much harder on the SRBC than the DRBC, but heavily criticized both river basin commissions. He went after the SRBC for its lobster dining habits on the backs of businesses and other water users paying fees to the agency. Both the DRBC and SRBC came in for criticism with respect to their very large accumulations of reserves even as they were raising these fees.
Also, take particular notice of how Fritz asked about the commissions taking money from special interest groups (the William Penn Foundation in the case of the DRBC) that were also financing opposition to the commissions. DePasquale used the imaginary example of his own office to indicate how damaging such practices are to public trust. He’s absolutely correct, of course, and kudos to Fritz for bringing it out in questions. This is what it’s all about. The DRBC effectively conspired with those financing its supposed opposition to delay acting upon gas drilling regulations and it’s gradually being exposed. Thank you, Jon!
Jon also questioned State Treasurer Joe Torsella. While the conversation had nothing to do landowner rights or river basin commissions, it is quite illuminating on the subject of state pension funds:
The key takeaway here is that Pennsylvania has been overestimating potential returns on investments and digging itself into a hole. The Treasurer is trying to stop the digging and is making progress, but what’s happened in the past under both Democrats and Republicans is what has created the constant push from Governor Wolf for a severance tax on natural gas. It’s his idea of the easy way out, but the State Treasurer is taking a more realistic approach by addressing the real problems.
Again, nice job by Rep. Jon Fritz. Landowners, taxpayers and water users have a real advocate in Harrisburg.