With reports of a severance tax on natural gas drillers excluded from a potential budget deal, statewide environmental advocacy organization PennFuture president and CEO, Larry J. Schweiger, released the following statement late Tuesday:
“A budget that does not include a severance tax not only ignores the will of a majority of Pennsylvanians, but also shifts much of the tax burden squarely on their backs. Rather than listening to their constituents, lawmakers are listening to well-funded industry interests at the expense of our environment.
“Pennsylvania is the only gas producing state in the nation without such a tax. Even with the current impact fee, the state is giving away a finite natural resource at the lowest rate in the nation. The scales are clearly stacked against Pennsylvania’s citizens, public health, air, land, and water.
“Marcellus shale extraction was sold to Pennsylvania taxpayers as an economic panacea, but in reality drillers have benefited from subsidies, giveaways and special deals and citizens of the commonwealth are footing the bill. With the potential for much of the natural gas to be sent overseas, we should be instead focusing on diversifying our energy portfolio and upping our investments in renewables and energy efficiency. The reported concessions stand to do more long-term harm than benefits.
“PennFuture recognizes the need for policymakers to move forward with a responsible budget, but this is no such thing. It isn’t a responsible budget for the environment, public health and safety from these industrial operations, and for taxpayers who won’t see any additional jobs but will see more money out of their pockets because the industry isn’t paying its fair share.“Pennsylvanians pay when the industry doesn’t. This potential deal points to a continuation of that unfortunate legacy.”
[Editor's Note: As proposed by Gov. Wolf, the natural gas severance tax had very little funding for environmental protection programs. Almost all the new revenue it generated went to funding basic education anyway.]
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