A recent column in your newspaper questioned the effectiveness of my letter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane requesting an official inquiry into the post-production cost deduction practices of Chesapeake Energy. It’s apparent that in the mind of the column’s author, Warren Howeler, there is no room for differing opinions – even differing opinions which have the same goal. That attitude is unfortunate and counter-productive.
My goal is, and always has been, to ensure that landowners are treated fairly. I’ve said publicly that litigation offers one avenue for resolution. I’m a lawyer by training and trade, and I have great faith in our courts. The court system is not some foreign world – it’s here in Bradford County, manned by Bradford County citizens. The most recent appointment to the U.S. District Court was a former Bradford County attorney. Eventually, the court system will be involved in this issue.
Legislation must also be pursued. I was the first, and to this date the only, lawmaker to hold a public hearing in Harrisburg to discuss this issue – more than eight months ago.
Representatives Pickett and Baker, along with others, have introduced House Bill 1684. I’ve voiced concerns that this legislation – although I support it – will only address future contracts and not solve the problems faced by current leaseholders.
Mr. Howeler criticized me for not following the same approach as Representatives Baker and Pickett. But why would we limit our options by putting all of our eggs in one basket? I’ve said repeatedly and publicly that when House Bill 1684 passes the House, I will support it in the Senate. In fact, Mr. Howeler, this very paper has printed my position.
I’ve also introduced three bills to address additional issues which have been brought to my attention. Mr. Howeler criticizes those bills, apparently because he believes in the philosophy of “my way or the highway.” That narrow-minded, intolerant approach won’t help my constituents.
The claim that seeking an Attorney General investigation is somehow “passing the buck” is ludicrous. Yes, it could take months or years to get an answer. However, there’s no guarantee that a legislative solution will be quicker or easier. Consider Act 13, which was enacted on February 14, 2012, and now, two years later, is still in litigation with the possible outcome that the entire law will be thrown out. Any bill, including House Bill 1684, could meet the same fate.
On the other hand, the Attorney General – through her Consumer Protection Division – has powerful tools at her disposal which can, in the proper circumstances, result in immediate enforcement action.
It seems that Mr. Howeler would have me cease all legislative efforts and withdraw my request to the Attorney General and rely on just one thing, House Bill 1684.
This is not an either-or decision. I believe House Bill 1684 should be considered, but I also believe we should pursue every available option. My constituents don’t care if we reach our goal of fair treatment through litigation, legislation, or an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. They just want us to reach that goal as soon as possible.