Shale Gas Tax Debate Moves to Front Burner

Rep. Greg Vitali (D-166th, Delaware County) wants gas drillers to pay 4.6¢ for every 1,000 cubit feet of they frack out of Pennsylvania’s shale. He’s sponsoring House Bill 33, which is intended to help fill a $4 billion shortfall in next year’s state budget, and to replenish funds for important environmental programs such as the Environmental Stewardship Fund. Local co-sponsors of HB33 include Mike Gerber (D-148th, Montgomery), Tim Briggs (D-148th, Montgomery), and Pamela DiLissio (D-149th, Montgomery/Philadelphia).

“Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state that does not have a drilling severance tax or fee in place,” Vitali said in a press release. “Out-of-state companies are profiting from the Commonwealth’s resources, and the Commonwealth should benefit too.”

The bill has statewide support from Democrats. An older version passed in the House with bipartisan support last fall. Since February, 2011, however, with Republicans in the House majority, HB 33 has been relegated to the Finance Committee.

The tax rate proposed is a modest 5%. Distribution of tax revenue would include 33% to General Fund Distribution (including 1.3% to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program “LIHEAP”); 33.3% to Local Government Distribution; and 33.4% to Environmental Distribution. The Environmental Distribution Breakdown is:

  • 29.6% to the Environmental Stewardship Fund
  • 1.6% to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund
  • 1.4% to the Fish and Boat Commission
  • 0.8% to the DEP for dam removal, restoration, and repair projects

To read the bill in summary form, or in its entirety, go to: http://www.pahouse.com/Vitali/MarcellusShaleTax.asp . You can also see a live price tag of the Dilling Tax Delay’s cost to Pennsylvania. As of this morning, it was soaring past $187,415,700.

On Wednesday, Vitali prepared a procedural motion known as a discharge resolution to force the bill out of committee and bring it to a yes or no vote. The House voted 113-86 to support a leadership ruling that effectively prevents Mr. Vitali from offering his discharge resolution for 50 days. Mr. Vitali called the move “parliamentary gymnastics” and said it will delay action on a bill that could generate $200 million in tax revenue for state coffers.  SOURCE: Robert Swift, The Times-Tribune

A possible tree-hugger, Vitali would also like to stop fracking in State Forest Lands. Governor Corbett recently lifted a four-month old moratorium on drilling in state forests, on a Saturday. House Bill 150, which Vitali is sponsoring, along with Briggs and Gerber and others, would impose “a three‐year moratorium on additional leasing of State forest lands for natural gas drilling, exploration, and production. Throughout the moratorium, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would monitor and assess the impact of previous leasing and drilling on State forest land. After the three‐year moratorium, the DCNR would not lease further State forest land unless it determines that the State forest can be sustained in a balanced state.” SOURCE: HB150, Regular Session 2011-2012)

PENNFUTURE Wants Corbett to Pass Gas
(And Sign A Drilling Tax)
According to PENNFUTURE, a state environmental action group, nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians (70%, according to recent polling) think the Legislature should pass, and the governor should sign, a gas drilling tax. A robust and broad-based drilling tax would bring relief to local communities that host drilling, restore Growing Greener and other environmental funding, and help reduce our deficit.

PennFuture’s Fair Share Tour is underway, traveling the state to send this clear message: Pennsylvanians demand that drillers pay their fair share. The tour is holding town hall meetings with legislators and other elected and appointed officials, representatives of land trust organizations and conservancies, anglers and hunters, and ordinary citizens who care about Pennsylvania’s environment and economy.

The Fair Share Tour will be in Hatboro on Monday, June 13th. Scheduled to speak:

  • Representative Tom Murt (R-Montgomery)
  • Representative Josh Shapiro (D-Montgomery)
  • Andrew Heath, executive director, Renew Growing Greener Coalition
  • Jan Jarrett, president and CEO, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future

Lehman United Methodist Church — Fellowship Hall
, 300 South York Road, 
Hatboro, PA
RSVP necessary! Pre-registration is required.
Go to http://www.pennfuture.org or call 215-545-9692.

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