Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senate Sends Marcellus Shale Bill, With Statewide Drilling Fee, To House

The Senate tonight voted 29 to 20 to pass Senate Bill 1100 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson), which includes a uniform, statewide Marcellus Shale drilling fee that would raise $154.6 million in 2012 and a laundry list of additional environmental protection measures.
Senate Democrats offered five amendments attempting to change the drilling fee amount, deal differently with local government regulation of drilling and additional environmental protection provisions. The amendments failed largely along party-lines.
“This legislation will help communities impacted by drilling, provide for reasonable local zoning parameters and implement strong environmental protections,” said Sen. Joe Scarnati said. “Through a reasonable and well-thought-out impact fee on shale companies, we can manage this tremendous resource in a way that improves our economy, creates new jobs and opportunities for our residents and protects our quality of life.
“The Marcellus Shale industry is here to stay in Pennsylvania – bringing us jobs, huge economic benefits and the potential for energy independence,” Scarnati said. “It makes sense to impose a reasonable impact fee on the industry to provide the funding necessary to further protect our natural resources, particularly at a time when our state is being forced to stretch our tax dollars.”
Click Here for video of Sen. Scarnati's floor remarks.
Sen. Scarnati released new information on the drilling fee in Senate Bill 1100: Distribution estimates to programs and local governments and estimates of revenue generated annually. An updated fiscal note is available online.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) released this statement on the bill:
"It is unfortunate that we were not able to reach a general agreement on all aspects of this measure and we cannot support it on final passage. There is too much at stake. We can't allow Pennsylvanians to ultimately wind up on the losing end of the battle to make sure our resources and drinking water are protected. We also need to make sure that Pennsylvanians get their fair share. Their states resources must be given away for a fair price.
"Alaska, Texas, Montana, and a slew of other states gain more from their severance fees than Pennsylvania will under this proposal. We can't allow multi-billion dollar international corporations a free pass to the vast and valuable resources that lie beneath our Commonwealth.
"We can't stand for the state taking away the rights of townships and municipalities to control their own destiny when it comes to Marcellus Shale development. The Republicans have made it clear tonight that they are willing to hand over the keys to the castle.
"Short-term benefits cannot take priority over what the majority of Pennsylvania's men and women want and deserve environmental protection and a fair fee from the companies poised to make billions more than they have already pocketed from the resources Pennsylvania provides. We can't be left holding the bag and paying for the clean-up many years from now when the natural gas rigs have been taken away and the natural gas is gone.
"I am saddened by the fact that one of the most important issues we have been negotiating for more than two years could not result in an acceptable compromise.
"I want to assure all, it wasn't for lack of effort. My Democratic colleagues and I were provided the opportunity to have meaningful input and provide ideas to improve this bill. For that, we are grateful.
"Sen. Scarnati, his staff and our members and staff negotiated at length through many issues and provided perspectives for the other to consider. But at the end of the day, we need to make sure that this bill is correct and something that Pennsylvanians can live with now and for years to come."
“This is one of the worst public policy fiascos I have seen in my entire Senate career,” said Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), who voted against the bill. “The Republican-led Senate and the governor are bending over backwards to give out-of-state and foreign companies free reign to pillage our natural resources.
“We need revenue right now to help our entire state. We have cut funding for public education and charter schools by $900 million. We have cut funding for higher education and now tuitions will increase. We eliminated the adultBasic program,” he said. “A severance tax could have funded some or all of these programs. Instead, Senate Bill 1100 placates the natural gas drilling industry, rather than providing Pennsylvania with much-needed revenues.
“Gov. Corbett and the Republican majority aren’t giving any priority to Pennsylvanians,” he said. “They talk about jobs and opportunity, but most of the real economic benefit will take place outside our borders. I’ve never seen so many license plates from Texas and Oklahoma.”
A quick summary of the drilling fee portion of the bill is available online. A summary of the environmental protection provisions is also available online.
The bill now goes to the House for action which started consideration of its own Marcellus Shale bill-- House Bill 1950 (Ellis-R-Butler)-- at 2:17 this afternoon. The House debate on amendments is not yet finished for the evening at this posting.

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