Corbett may flip-flop on gas drilling taxes

During his March 8 budget address, Gov. Tom Corbett said that he viewed Marcellus Shale drilling as “the foundation of a new economy … not just something new to tax.”  

His words ran counter to growing opposition that deems revenues from natural gas drilling as necessities to plug a $4 billion gap. Now — just days after a post-address poll found a majority of Pennsylvanians support a Marcellus Shale tax — Corbett indicated Thursday that he’d consider an impact fee on drillers. The caveat was that he wouldn’t discuss a state fee, only one that would stay within affected communities.

Travis Windle, a spokesman for the industry-friendly Marcellus Shale Coalition, said “there’s going to be a long, protracted dialogue and conversation in Harrisburg in the coming days and months.” He noted a drilling area in Texas has offered a 10-year tax abatement to “attract more people to come down there,” but didn’t indicate a severance tax would chase drilling companies away from Pennsylvania.

“Local fees won’t do anything to protect public health,” said Brady Dale of Clean Water Action said, noting that by not generating state funds, the state Department of Environmental Protection will remain half the size it was during the Ridge administration. The weakened DEP was the topic at a state Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday.

Said Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters, “A severance tax could generate nearly $200 million this year. … Seeing more and more communities forced to deal with the consequences of drilling, Pennsylvanians know that we cannot afford to lay off the men and women who protect our air and water.”


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