State Rep. Kathy Rapp is denying a claim by a local environmental group that she is using her legislative position to promote a company for financial gain.
The Allegheny Defense Project said in a press release on Tuesday that a statement of financial interest filed by Rapp in April reveals that she receives income as a state representative and from EXCO Resources, an oil and gas company that drilled approximately 40 Marcellus shale gas wells in Pennsylvania in 2011.
"If EXCO is drilling or plans to drill wells in the Allegheny National Forest, Rep. Rapp stands to benefit financially. That is a major conflict of interest," ADP Forest Watch Coordinator Cathy Pedler said.
"Quite frankly, their allegations are ridiculous," Rapp said in response.
According to Rapp, EXCO is the company that owns the shallow gas well on her property that was originally put into place by North Coast Energy.
"They are taking this and basically distorting this into something that it's not," Rapp said, emphasizing that she holds no interest in the company and estimated the yearly royalty check from the company isn't more than $100.
"I don't think I get $100 a year," she said.
Rapp said she has talked to the House legal counsel and described the allegations by the ADP as "bogus."
"What they are trying to allege is that I have a conflict of interest. First of all, I have no interest in any company that is producing on the Allegheny National Forest," Rapp said. "They're really reaching here and trying to discredit me, because this is a group of people who would like absolutely no activity to take place on the Allegheny National Forest, whether people own the property or not and whether the property is privately owned or not."
As a member of the General Assembly, Rapp said she is well within her bounds to own a shallow gas well on her property and introduce oil and gas legislation. She likened that scenario to attending public school and being a member of an education committee.
"I have a small farm; that does not restrict me from voting or introducing legislation that has to do with agriculture," she said.
In early December, Rapp sponsored House Bill 1904 which is intended to limit the federal government's attempt to control access to mineral rights in the ANF.
"House Bill 1904 is about private property rights on the Allegheny National Forest, and it's about states rights," she said.
ADP claims HB 1904 would open the ANF to more drilling and less oversight.
"The legislation, HB 1904, attempts to limit the Forest Service from regulating virtually any aspect of oil and gas drilling on the Allegheny National Forest," according to the ADP's press release. "Additionally, the legislation is aimed at prohibiting the Forest Service from regulating consumptive use of water withdrawals of millions of gallons of fresh potable from aquifers and springs and clean water from streams for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."