Natural gas drilling

Giving Away the Store: A Fact Check on Corbett/Ellis Marcellus Fee Plan

Download a PDF of this fact sheet

By Michael Wood, Research Director, & Sharon Ward, Director

The average Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale gas well is projected to generate $16 million over its life.[1]

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center compared four leading drilling tax and fee proposals before the General Assembly to determine the total tax revenue raised by each over the life of an average well. The effective tax rates for the plans ranged from 1.0% to 4.7%. Governor Corbett’s proposal would collect $160,000 over the 50-year life of an average well. A comparable well in Texas would raise $878,500 – five times more than Governor Corbett’s plan.

Plan Total Fee/Tax Revenue Effective Fee/Tax Rate
Scarnati: SB 1100 $505,000 3.1%
Quinn: HB 1700 $710,000 4.4%
Murt/DiGirolamo: HB 1863 $770,000 4.7%
Corbett/Ellis $160,000 1.0%

Other shale gas-producing states ask much more from drillers.

Making the Case for Better Marcellus Shale Protections and a Drilling Tax

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

Before this busy week slips by, I wanted to highlight two things of note related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

First, on Monday, the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission released its final report and recommendations. It couldn't have come soon enough, as the state Senate began moving Marcellus Shale legislation this week.

Over the last three months, more than 500 people have weighed in with the Commission on their concerns and suggestions to better protect local communities and the environment from the negative impacts of drilling. Many citizens testified that Marcellus Shale drilling has moved too quickly and that public officials entrusted to protect their constitutional right to clean air and water have let them down.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center was one of the eight civic and environmental organization that came together to form the Citizens Commission. You can read more about the report at our web site.

On Tuesday, PBPC also participated in a press conference with Representatives Gene DiGirolamo, Tom Murt and Mike Sturla, along with advocates for the environment, education and working families, to call for drillers to pay their fair share.

Several speakers observed that there is strong public support for a drilling tax in Pennsylvania that protects the environment and invests in Pennsylvania’s future, including the education of our next generation.

PA Citizens: Officials Have Let Us Down, Need Better Drilling Protections

Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission ReportPennsylvanians believe that gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has moved too quickly and that public officials need to do a better job protecting their communities and the environment, according to the final report of the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission.

The report is the culmination of a two-month effort to give citizens a voice on improving drilling policies and protections. The recommendations made by the Governor’s Marcellus Advisory Commission were a first step but did not recognize how severely inadequate Pennsylvania’s regulatory landscape is for shale drilling. The Citizens Commission recommendations would further protect the environment and local communities.

At hearings across the state, citizens testified to a variety of concerns, but many common themes emerged. Chief among them, citizens take their right to clean air and water very seriously. Again and again, citizens invoked the state constitution’s guarantee to clean air, pure water and environmental preservation, and voiced serious concerns that Pennsylvania wasn’t prepared to responsibly address the impacts of gas drilling.

Citizens also expressed concerns that policy and regulatory processes are disjointed and lack the cohesion needed to address the cumulative impact of drilling on air, water, open spaces, forests, and human and social infrastructure, according to the Commission’s report.

More eco-cops to be layed off in new Corbett budget...

There's two ways to think about the ineffectiveness of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection as described in this video.

Of course, a lot of folks' prejudices tend them toward the former, but the evidence suggests that the real problem is the latter.

If we keep laying off eco-cops, do we really expect polluters not to try to get away with polluting more? And who can catch them but DEP? Answer: almost no one.

That's why Clean Water Action thinks the real environmental news today isn't the quibbling over a severance tax. It's the fact that the state's GOP has agreed on a budget that will cut environmental enforcement staff another $10 million.

This is what strength in numbers looks like

Most of the folks in this video are Clean Water Action staff, but there's a few of the rank and file Lobby Day attendees there. On Tuesday, environmentalists hit Harrisburg big [check out these photos]. You might have seen press reports about the rally. To me, though, the real story is what happened before the rally, as normal people went to visit their legislators and talk issues around the Marcellus Shale.

Folks were talking to legislators about the budget for environmental enforcement, rules to protect drinking water, a commonsense moratorium and taxing the revenues from shale to pay for cleaning up the drillers' destruction. Before the day happened, we had folks registered to come from 47 out of the 50 State Senate Districts, and our drop-off rate was really low. So not only was there a big noisy rally, but legislative offices were hearing from real voters. That's where change comes from.

It was also great to see the environmental community so unified.

Comparing Pa.'s Marcellus Shale Drilling Tax Plans

According to recent media reports, Pennsylvania state lawmakers believe a Marcellus Shale gas drilling tax will happen one way or another. The big question is just what it will look like.

Several bills, with bipartisan backing, have been introduced in the General Assembly to impose a drilling tax or fee on natural gas production in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has a new report comparing details of the four most prominent plans introduced by Rep. Greg Vitali, Sens. John Yudichak and Ted Erickson, Rep. Kate Harper, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.

Here are some of the key findings:

How Corbett tricked the protesters at the last Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission hearing

This video is just 88 seconds and its great. At Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory hearing last week, they set out two sign-up sheets for public comment. Only, they told the industry about one and the protesters about the other.

Guess which one they went to first?

In this video, a woman from Pittsburgh calmly and clearly confronts a Corbett Administration spokesperson about the trick. She comes off as smart, guts and reasonable. He comes off like someone who just got caught stealing an extra piece of cake at Church Camp.

Philadelphia's forum on hydrofracking our watershed


Speak out, Philadelphia -- for your water supply

Local environmentalists partner with Councilwoman for hearing on new rules for hydrofracking the Philadelphia watershed

Contact: Brady Russell, Eastern PA Director, 215-545-0250

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has partnered with Clean Water Action and other environmental groups to host a forum on natural gas drilling in the water supply of Philadelphia. The Delaware River Basin Commission, which was created to protect the special waters of the Delaware River Watershed, has released a set of draft rules for hydrofracking for natural gas.

If these rules go into effect, natural gas drillers will put the water we all drink at the same risk from dangerous chemicals that have made so many concerned in other parts of the state. Many Philadelphians drink water taken from the Delaware River, with intakes downstream from many future natural gas developments.

Philadelphia groups and elected leaders are banding together to create a forum for spoken comment which will be transcribed and sent to the DRBC before the April 15th deadline for comments.

What: Public Forum on the Draft DRBC Natural Gas Drilling Rules
When: March 8th. Doors at 5:15PM. Forum Begins at 5:30PM. Ends at 7:30PM
Where: City Hall, City Council Chambers (Room 400)
Co-sponsoring organizations: Delaware Riverkeeper Network, PennEnvironment, Protecting Our Waters, Sierra Club Southeastern PA

State Forest Drilling Moratorium bill, HB 2235, moves out of committee

What our state forests could look like with more drillingVitali's bill to put a moratorium on Natural Gas Drilling in State Forests (HB 2235) was voted out of committee just now. he and Rep. Levdansky led this charge, along with a coalition of Democrats calling themselves the Green Dogs. The vote was 16-9. GOP members Harper and Everett voted for the bill, which is great news.

Read HB 2235 here.

The Green Dogs believe that they were sold a bill of goods by the Governor last year. The Governor asked them to support his budget with some prescribed forest leasing. In exchange, he said he wouldn't ask to lease more land this year.

But he has.

Hit Read More, below, yo.

When negligence causes explosions in your front yard -- the case of Norma Fiorentino and her Natural Gas Drilling neighbor

Right behind Norma Fiorentino's house, they have been drilling for natural gas. Some of the gas is coming from under Norma's property, so she gets a little money for it (not all that much so far, though). She also got a present on New Year's Day. Her water well exploded all over her yard. Now she can't drink the water from her tap anymore and she's worried that her kitchen might blow up.

Good times, right? And when the checks stop coming, the gas won't stop. It will still be there in the water table. Totally ruined. Won't that be great when she her or her heirs try to sell her land?

Clean Water Action is meeting with people and talking to them about their experience living nearby or around natural gas drilling rigs.

So what can you do? Watch this video, then I have two quick things for you after the jump.

Natural Gas Drilling: Rendell caved on the Severance Tax; Rep. George and Rep. McCall are still in it to win it

I woke up Monday morning to hear on WHYY that Governor Rendell had abandoned the idea of imposing a tax on the extraction of natural gas from our state's massive but deeply buried reserves of natural gas. If he'd given a better explanation for his decision, I might be able to keep quiet about it, but the reason he said we shouldn't do it because it would kill a fledgling industry. Hogwash. Everywhere else the industry operates has a severance tax already and we've got more gas here than all of them combined (well, okay, we have the most, hands down -- no one knows exactly).

Besides, it's not a new industry at all. It's the same rigs, same teams, same operations already operating in Texas and Wyoming and Colorado. Moving to a new state doesn't make it a new industry. In fact, moving those rigs around to tap new gas plays is just how the business works. They already know how to do it. That's the essence of what they do.

So, the Inquirer did an editorial today spelling this out with numbers. Why, they ask, should we believe that a modest tax would quash this operation when the revenue forecast of the main players are so rosy? It seems like there is plenty of money there.

Some context the Inquirer didn't mention. Did you know that we don't tax the extraction of any natural resource from our state? Not coal. Not gas. Not wood. Not freaking gravel. Why? Because the coal industry is so powerful here that they have time to argue about any severance tax because they believe that as soon as one resource gets taxed that would take us that much closer to taxing coal. And they don't want that to be taxed ever. So they fight them all.


But we had a Governor who had said he would back taxing gas and Democrats who said they would, too. We had that, but now we don't anymore. It's too bad. Fortunately, the House Dems seem to be standing pat on Severance Tax, and that's the right call. Rep. George told PA Environmental Digest that he's standing firm on the Severance Tax and that Speaker McCall is with him.
Clean Water Action Pennsylvania

believes that the severance tax is so important that we canvassed part of McCall's district on it recently and delivered a stack of letters to him from locals who agreed: tax the shale and make it pay for environmental protection.

In fact, we specifically argue that a piece of the tax should be used for hiring and training enough DEP inspectors that one can be on site for each well bore at the stage of siting, drilling, cementing, stimulating and the closing of waste pits.

Ask the governor and legislators -why are they letting gas companies give us the shaft

Posting our action alert on natural gas drilling in reaction to the Governor's suggestion that it is off the table during budget negotiations. Please contact him and state legislators!

Multi-billion dollar energy companies have spent $1 million in lobbying money in Pennsylvania this year to try to stop legislators from enacting a severance tax on natural gas extraction. Their money appears to be working, as the state budget negotiations are going forward without a severance tax.

These companies stand to make billions off of our natural resources, and yet Pennsylvania remains the only state with large operations that does not charge a severance tax. These fees can help to cover costs for damaged roads and bridges, contaminated drinking water and other environmental regulations. Instead, the legislature would foist those costs onto Pennsylvania taxpayers rather than force industry to clean up their own mess.

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