Pennsylvania’s Auditor General is conducting an audit of both the DRBC and the SRBC and it’s long overdue based on DRBC deceit with respect to its budget.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is playing games with its budget, which isn’t the first time. Regular readers, in fact, will recall how the agency was taking money from the William Penn Foundation to study gas issues at the same time the latter was funding the Delaware Riverkeeper then suing the DRBC over those same gas issues. It was an act of incomprehensible stupidity at best and corruption at worst.
I lean toward the latter given that Executive Director Carol Collier was rewarded with a new position at the Academy of Natural Sciences upon her retirement. The Academy also depends on the Foundation for funding, so it’s been one conflict of interest and one case of DRBC deceit after another. Now, its happening again with a budget the agency plans to adopt next week.
The proposed DRBC budget for the FY 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) may be found here and it raises on question after another. Consider, for example, this table:
I have highlighted the Pennsylvania contributions. The table suggests the Commonwealth has been funding the agency steadily at $434,000 per year, but the reality is that Pennsylvania cut its contribution in its FY 2018 budget by half, to $217,000. There’s no reason to think it will increase this year and lots of reasons to hope it might well be further reduced. It should be zeroed out given that the DRBC is using to money to wage legal warfare against the citizens and landowners of the upper basin.
The raises a very serious question. Just how much money is the DRBC spending on legal fees to fight those citizens and landowners? Peruse the draft budget and the DRBC audit for 2017 and you won’t find much of any detail on legal fees, although you can learn the agency spent $2,197 on its library and $2,973 on vehicle maintenance in FY 2017. Here is what the audit does say:
The favorable variance of $407,072 in special and contractual services results from the decision not to outsource certain exceptional project review activities and lower than expected legal fees.
We learn two things from this; (1) that legal fees are included in the category “special and contractual services, and (2) they were “lower than expected” for FY 2017 ending June 30, 2017. Here’s what the budget projects:
Legal fees are presumably included under “Other Contractual services” which were budgeted to increase more than five-fold in FY 2018 and nearly another 60% in FY 2019. The DRBC, in other words, is spending a pile of money on legal fees (several hundreds of thousands of dollars) to fight upper basin citizens and landowners. It knows its proposed fracking ban is on very poor legal footing and is prepared to spend a small fortune in taxpayer funds for the sole purpose of appeasing a tiny group of loud-mouthed radicals opposing development of the one energy source on which the region depends more than any other.
Meanwhile, we learn the DRBC deceit extends to still taking money from the William Penn Foundation, funder of the rabidly anti-gas Delaware Riverkeeper, Clean Air Council, Penn Environment, NRDC, et al. The money, which once went directly from the Foundation to the Commission (those contracts are now finished) is now funneled through Carol Collier’s Academy of Natural Sciences, which is almost completely dependent on the Foundation for its existence.
Here’s how much money the William Penn Foundation has given the Academy in recent years, a total of $11.4 million:
And, here’s how some of that money ends up at the DRBC, according to its proposed budget:
The DRBC continues to take money, indirectly, from a special interest private foundation that also indirectly funds lawsuits against it and sees no conflict of interest. It has allowed itself to become the tool of those who want the Delaware River watershed for themselves. The destruction of the DRBC’s independence continues behind the scenes as this once focused organization has itself devolved into a regional environmental special interest at the beck and call ofd the gentry class that wants to make a wilderness of the upper basin.
This organization is mismanaged and manipulated, now no more than another political tool in the hands of a ruling class with its own agenda. It needs thorough investigation and I sincerely hope Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale provides an in-depth analysis to expose the takeover. This DRBC deceit cannot continue. Enough of this Pinocchio nonsense.