More protection for consumers, please
So far, Attorney General Kathleen Kane has just fouled off a softball tossed at her from the opposite side of the aisle.
Gov. Tom Corbett and state Sen. Gene Yaw of Williamsport, both Republicans, have asked the Democratic attorney general to investigate claims by property owners that the state's leading natural gas producer, Chesapeake Energy Corp. has held back contracted royalty payments.
Mrs. Kane's spokesman has said only that the office will investigate whether it has jurisdiction to investigate the claims themselves.
But the attorney general clearly has authority for consumer protection. The agency includes a division devoted exclusively to consumer protection, which often acts on matters that do not include anything as concrete as a gas company's lease to drill on private property.
Mr. Corbett and Mr. Yaw cited complaints by property owners that Chesapeake had deducted production costs from contracted royalty payments on extracted gas. In some cases, they said, the deductions exceeded the amounts of the payments - meaning that in some cases property owners had to pay Chesapeake for drilling on their land.
Mrs. Kane should use her authority to protect consumers to take appropriate civil or criminal action against any gas company that inappropriately shorts leaseholders.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers should act on a bill that has been bottled up since September in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. It specifically would prohibit companies from withholding certain production and post-production costs from royalty payments. More than 100 people attended a recent rally, organized by the Bradford County Commissioners, in Towanda in support of the bill. The bill, if passed, would make sure that landowners receive at least the state's 12.5 percent guaranteed minimum royalty and would prevent deductions for post-production costs from reducing royalty payments below 12.5 percent.
Mrs. Kane and lawmakers should protect not only consumers, but the economy.