The state House of Representatives has approved legislation, SB 367, aimed at allowing the state government to lease mineral rights on some state-owned lands, allowing for natural-gas exploration, coal mining, and quarrying limestone around universities, prisons, and other state institutions. The Senate had previously approved the legislation. Governor Tom Corbett is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill would give the Department of General Services the option to make and execute the contracts or leases. Currently, only a few state agencies, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission, are authorized by law to enter into leases for resource development. Those agencies and their leases are not affected by SB 367.

Under the bill, also known as the “Indigenous Mineral Resources Incentives Development Act,” payments or royalties received pursuant to contracts or leases on state-owned land would be apportioned three ways: the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, which supports conservation efforts, would receive 60 percent; the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVest), 25 percent; and the agency hosting the project, 15 percent.

“This distribution formula provides equitable funding and promotes our efforts to maintain and improve Pennsylvania’s environment and infrastructure improvement efforts,” said state Senator Don White, R-Armstrong, the sponsor of the legislation.—

– John L. Kennedy, for the Law Weekly