Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Business, Energy Groups Oppose Severance, Energy Taxes, Don’t Expect Permit Reforms To Survive Legal Challenges, Distance Themselves From 3rd Party Permit Reviews

A coalition of business leaders representing a wide variety of industry, energy and Shale drilling sectors across Pennsylvania Tuesday held a media call to urge the House of Representatives to oppose House Bill 542 – the Tax Code bill.
The legislation would increase taxes on Pennsylvania businesses, the Shale gas industries and residents by $600 million annually they said through a new natural gas severance tax and gross receipt taxes on electric and natural gas energy consumers
In an article by Laura Legere in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the groups also expressed little confidence in environmental regulatory reforms that were married to the new taxes to make the revenue package more palatable to them, saying those provisions can’t be counted on to survive expected legal challenges by environmental organizations.
The reforms-- like mandatory timelines for issuing drilling-related permits and delegating permit reviews to third-party contractors--  have caused a backlash among environmental advocates.
“We are not willing to trade that at all,” said PA Independent Oil and Gas Association executive director Dan Weaver, speaking for his association and its member companies. “Because at the end of the day, what we see happening is that [regulatory reform] component being thrown out and what you’re left with is nothing but the tax.”
Dan Weaver also commented on the issue of DEP permit reviews in an Associated Press story by Marc Levy last Saturday saying--
          "So tell me how they're supposed to get their permits through on an expedited basis if they have less money and less staff? And here they go and cut their budget further. Doesn't that exacerbate the problem?"
PA Legislative Services reported that when asked, “Do you support private permit consultants taking over certain DEP jobs?” "The industry representatives indicated it has not been promoted."
Specifically, both PIOGA and the Chamber said they did not promote the use of third parties for permit review. The Chamber said they "were not involved in the negotiating or drafting of the third-party permit review language."
Gene Barr, President and CEO of the PA Chamber of Business and Industry said, “Of Pennsylvania’s competitive business advantages, affordable, accessible energy - particularly natural gas - perhaps stands out the most.
“This revenue package would attack that advantage by imposing additional punitive taxes on the natural gas and electricity use – increasing energy costs for businesses throughout the Commonwealth,” he added.  “If we truly want our economy to flourish, state officials need to enact pro-growth policies that will encourage job creation and entice companies to come to Pennsylvania and stay here – which will in turn generate more revenue for the state.”
“In the Senate’s revenue package, over $400 million would come from additional taxes on utilities,” said Energy Association of PA President Terry Fitzpatrick.  “Using utilities as collection agents for state government isn’t good policy.  The Senate plan will put an especially heavy and unfair burden on large energy users.”
Click Here for the full announcement by the business groups.
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