By Sen. John T. Yudichak
14th Senatorial District
As the Marcellus Shale industry continues to grow in this state, it is imperative that we take the proper steps to cushion the impact that this industry may have on Pennsylvania's infrastructure, forest lands, park lands, wildlife, drinking water and neighborhoods.
Recently, the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission unveiled its final report. Among the recommendations from the report was a recommendation for an impact fee that would benefit only those communities where drilling is currently underway. Furthermore, the "local only" fee would require a direct correlation between impact and what the gas companies would ultimately have to pay. Who do you think will win that battle?
While I applaud the Commission for recognizing that the communities on the front lines of the natural gas drilling industry are facing serious impacts from drilling, I am disappointed that there was not debate or discussion on a fair and responsible severance fee that would benefit the entire Commonwealth.
The impact of Marcellus Shale drilling is not isolated to one area of Pennsylvania. Ripples of the industry reach to every corner of the Commonwealth from pipeline safety concerns in the Southeast to water quality concerns in the Northwest and concerns for quality jobs in all regions of Pennsylvania.
The people of Pennsylvania overwhelmingly support a severance fee on natural gas drilling. In the legislature, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for a statewide Marcellus Shale severance fee. This past session, I worked with several colleagues in the legislature from both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to craft common-sense legislation for such a fee.
The legislation would have created a Marcellus Shale base impact fee of $17,000 per well, to be adjusted by the price of natural gas and a volume factor to generate approximately $205 million in the first year and $260 million in the second year. The funds would have been distributed to conservation districts, emergency responders, local governments, Growing Greener programs and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup fund.
Unfortunately, comprehensive legislation to address the growing Marcellus Shale industry was delayed again.
We must press ahead and pass a fair and reasonable severance fee on Marcellus Shale drilling this fall when the legislature returns to session.
We have a wonderful opportunity to grow Pennsylvania's economy and boost job creation here in the commonwealth, but there must be shared prosperity and economic development must co-exist with sound environmental stewardship.
If we continue to brush this critical issue aside, the Marcellus Shale industry could become the "King Coal" of this generation, where our natural resources are extracted from the ground and sent to fuel the world while Pennsylvania taxpayers are stuck with the clean-up bill for the impact of the industry on our rivers, streams and landscape.
Now that the recommendations of the Commission have been released, there is no reason not to act. The Senate is fully prepared to take up the issue of statewide severance fee. I will continue to work tirelessly to see that this issue is resolved as quickly as possible so the benefits of the Marcellus Shale industry can be realized throughout Pennsylvania.