By PATRICK CLOONAN Daily News StafWriter
There was point-counterpoint about a Marcellus Shale severance tax in
Some leading state House Democrats, including Finance Chairman David
Levdansky of Forward
Township , joined activists and supporters of a tax at one
Republican lawmakers offered opposition to that tax and a possible
boost to the state income tax at another rally.
“The taxpayers who are providing the feed in this trough have had
enough,” said Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry
Supporters said a tax would cover the cost of drilling to land and
water, and possibly balance the state budget, too.
“The Marcellus Shale offers us a tremendous opportunity to expand our
supply of domestic fuel and, through the proposed severance tax, bring
revenue into the state,” acknowledged Jan Jarrett, CEO of Citizens for
Pennsylvania’s Future or PennFuture.
Jarrett also wants part of the tax invested in land, water, wildlife
and communities that may bear the brunt of drilling.
“These drilling operations use millions of gallons of water and scar
our land, at least temporarily,” the PennFuture CEO said.
Jarrett spoke at a Capitol Hill rally with Levdansky as well as House
Majority Leader Todd Eachus, DHazleton, and House Environmental
Resources and Energy Chairman Camile “Bud” George, D-Houtzdale.
Also on hand were state Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director
Douglas J. Austen; Ed Troxelof the Pennsylvania State Association of
Boroughs; and Sharon Ward from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy
Offering opposition was a coalition including Americans for Tax
Reform, the National Taxpayers’ Union, the Heritage Foundation and
Citizens Against Higher Taxes.
In February, Gov. Ed Rendell proposed a 5 percent tax plus 4.7 cents
per 1,000 cubic feet of gas produced.
Rendell said it was similar to a tax in West Virginia and could bring
in $107.2 million in fiscal 2009-10 and double that in the 2010-11
Tax opponents include state Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake
Corman, R-Bellefonte, who told a Philadelphia newspaper last month that
it was too early to discuss taxing natural gas extraction.
A gas industry blog quoted Corman’s remarks to the Pennsylvania Press
Club, where he said efforts “to plug a short-term budget problem” could
“blow a once-in-a-generation opportunity.” “The drillers and their
compatriots are screaming like stuck hogs, complaining that the tax
will kill their ‘infant industry,’” Jarrett said. “But the reality is
far different. Drilling in the Marcellus Shale has been going on since
1995.” The PennFuture CEO said the state Department of Environmental
Protection already has permitted more than 1,150 Marcellus wells, of
which 350 have been drilled with 100 producing fuel. The
Republican-controlled stat State senate did not include a severance tax
in the budget it passed. The Democratic s controlled House Appropriation
committee rejected the Senate budge in a vote along party lines Monday.
The Pennsylvania Oil & G and Association said the tax may
be aimed tat Marcellus Shale production but would be levied on all gas
drilling. s Also, an industry-based Marcellus Shale Committee said West
Virginia may have such a tax but it doesn't’ “have the same regulatory
challenge that exist in Pennsylvania.” of Levdansky has favored using
part nthe tax to fund state Game Commission sand Fish and Boat
Commission effort to improve habitat and grow a wildlife recreation
industry. He also has raised concern about the impact of drilling in his
39th Legislative district, where such communities a Jefferson Hills and
Forward have face the issue. Landowners
are increasingly being approached and receiving mailing from property
management companies ”representing Marcellus Shale drillers,