Posts Tagged ‘D-Clearfield County’

Severance-tax issue a big hurdle for drill laws

Legislators want adequate tax share for municipalities fiscally hit by gas drilling.


Much legislation has been written recently to address concerns about natural gas drilling into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, but little has been signed into law.

And one issue, it seems has been overshadowing and holding up action on all the others: a state severance tax on natural gas extraction.

Several bills addressing a severance tax have been put forward by state legislators, and Gov. Ed Rendell also has proposed implementing such a tax.

“The biggest concern for legislators is that an adequate portion of a severance tax would come back to local governments that are financially impacted by drilling activities,” said Adam Pankake, representing Sen. Gene Yaw, a Republican from Lycoming County and one of the few legislators to have a Marcellus-related bill he sponsored signed into law.

Senate Bill 325, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Melio, D-Levittown, didn’t muster much support in the House because it authorized an 8-percent severance tax, all of which would go to the state’s General Fund, Pankake said.

State Sen. Raphael Musto, D-Pittston Township, proposed a severance tax plan in Senate Bill 905 that mirrors Rendell’s plan, directing all proceeds of a 5-percent tax and a 4.7-cent charge on every 1,000 cubic feet of gas extracted into the General Fund.

A bill by state Rep. Bud George, chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, would send only 60 percent of a 5-percent tax to the General Fund.

The remainder would be divvied up, sending 15 percent to the Environmental Stewardship Fund; 9 percent split evenly between counties and municipalities in which wells are drilled; 5 percent to the Liquid Fuels Tax Fund; 4 percent split evenly between the Game and Fish and Boat commissions; 4 percent to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund; and 3 percent to a program to help low-income residents with heating bills.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-West Chester, would send half of a 5-percent severance tax to the General Fund. Another 44 percent would be split evenly between the Environmental Stewardship Fund and municipalities in which a well was drilled; the remaining 6 percent would be split between the Game and Fish and Boat commissions.

Legislators are also considering severance tax models used in other states, such as a phase-in approach used in Arkansas, Pankake said.

Marcellus-drilling industry advocates describe it as a fledgling industry that a severance tax could cripple because of the financial resources needed to build a pipeline infrastructure where none previously existed.

Matthew Maciorski, spokesman for state Rep. George, D-Clearfield County, said severance tax legislative proposals have been “coming in fast and furious. Everyone has their own take on how the revenue should be divided.”

Maciorski said Marcellus Shale issues are “very complicated and integral to the whole budget debate.”

Some legislators use some pieces of legislation as bargaining chips in negotiations with the gas industry. For example, the industry doesn’t support a severance tax, but the industry is pushing for a law authorizing forced pooling – compelling landowners who don’t wish to lease their mineral rights to be part of a drilling unit with others that do.

“Sometimes there are alliances that have to be built. &hellip Sometimes we rely on members to tell us when it’s time to strike. It gets complicated going between the House and the Senate. Members want to have all their ducks in a row to prevent there being (additional delays) in the process,” Maciorski said.

Bob Kassoway, director of the House Finance Committee for the Democratic Caucus, said any severance tax bill will likely be passed as part of the 2010-11 state budget, and it’s likely that little if any other Marcellus-related legislation will be passed until that happens.

Sen. Yaw was pleased that Act 15 was signed into law on March 22. Based on his Senate Bill 297, it repeals five-year confidentiality for gas production financial records and requires well operators to submit semi-annual reports to the state. It also requires the state Department of Environmental Protection to post well data online.

But while the debate continues over the severance tax, legislation on issues important to lease holders, to residents with environmental concerns and to members of the gas industry continue to languish in the House or Senate or their committees.

In addition to severance tax legislation, there are at least four Marcellus-related Senate bills and at least 17 House bills pending.

For example, legislators are holding off a vote on Rep. Bill DeWeese’s House Bill 10, which would enable counties to assess value to gas and oil for taxation purposes, likely because it hasn’t been decided what – if any – percentage of a severance tax will go to counties.

Introduced 16 months ago, House Bill 297 remains in the House Transportation Committee. Sponsored by Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Hermitage, it would require the state Department of Transportation to publish by the end of the year a revised schedule of bonding amounts for roads damaged by heavy truck traffic and to update the amount at least every three years.

PennDOT last revised the schedule in 1978, Longietti said, leaving officials in municipalities damaged by drilling trucks with insufficient guaranteed funding to repair their roads.

Rep. George’s House Bill 2213, which increases bonding amounts for wells, boosts the number of required well inspections by DEP and adds protections for water supplies, has gained much local support. But after an amendment in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in May, it was re-committed to the House Appropriations Committee.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, announced in May she is working on a series of bills to provide additional protections to drinking water sources that could be harmed by drilling.

State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, issued a statement last week stating that she also was working to develop legislation to protect drinking water from gas drilling practices.

Painfully aware of the slow legislative pace in Harrisburg, Boback is urging the governor to issue an executive order implementing additional protective rules before more well-drilling permits can be issued.

Copyright: Times Leader

Pa. House panel to hear gas-drilling concerns

Environmental Resources and Energy hearing Wednesday at Kingston Township building.

By Steve
Staff Writer

KINGSTON TWP. – Several people with concerns about natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania – and especially in the Back Mountain – are scheduled to testify Wednesday at a public hearing before a state House of Representatives committee.

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy requested and is hosting a hearing of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee at the Kingston Township Municipal Building from 1 to 3 p.m.

Mundy, D-Kingston, said she has “grave concerns” that there are inadequate protections in place to protect the environment from drilling associated with the Marcellus Shale formation.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop Marcellus Shale drilling, but we need to make sure it doesn’t leave a legacy like that of coal. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Mundy said on Monday.

She said she believes a proposed drilling site in Lehman Township is “much too close” to the Huntsville and Ceasetown reservoirs, which provide drinking water to many of her constituents.

Committee Majority Chairman Camille “Bud” George notes in a press release that the state Department of Environmental Protection issued more than 1,300 drilling permits in 2009 and more are expected in coming years, yet no study exists on the environmental or human health impacts of gas development in Pennsylvania.

Testimony will be presented about mitigating environmental risks and House Bill 2213 – the Land and Water protection Act introduced by George, D-Clearfield County.

The bill would:

• Require state inspections of wells during each drilling phase.

• Extend to 2,500 feet the presumed liability of a well polluting a water supply; the current radius is 1,000 feet.

• Require full disclosure of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of the gas.

• Update bonding requirements to cover the costs of decommissioning a well. Current regulations call for a $2,500 bond, but the cost to cap a well could range from $12,000 to $150,000 for a deep well, according to George.

Scheduled to testify are Dr. Thomas Jiunta, a local podiatric physician active in environmental causes; Dr. Gere Reisinger, a physician whose 200-acre farm in Wyoming County has been affected by drilling; Victoria Switzer, whose water at her home in Dimock, Susquehanna County, was contaminated after nearby drilling; Brady Russell, eastern Pennsylvania director, Clean Water Action; and Jeff Schmidt, senior director, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter.

Copyright: Times Leader