State Rep. Joseph Brennan



Marcellus Shale bill fails to meet expectations of Pennsylvania’s residents

By Rep. Joe Brennan


Poll after poll indicates that a majority of Pennsylvanians support a reasonable tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, the multibillion dollar industry, operating via out-of-state and foreign drilling companies within the Commonwealth.


There is no doubt that natural gas has an important role in our state and our nation’s energy future, but at what cost? The expenses related to road repair, emergency response, law enforcement and environmental monitoring are growing and well-documented.


While repeated polls show the public's demand – as well as support from some industry CEOs – for a fair, yet adequate extraction tax like those in other drilling states, this has been an uphill battle in Harrisburg.


In the last legislative session, House Democrats twice passed a fair Marcellus Shale tax bill that twice stalled in the Republican-led Senate. This month, after nearly a year of delay, House Republicans have taken action on their own version through the weak, pro-drillers proposal, H.B. 1950.


This Corbett-Republican bill is nothing more than an early Christmas gift to the Big Oil and Gas Industry. House Bill 1950 fails Pennsylvania in several ways. First, it essentially strips away the rights of our local communities – and Pennsylvania residents – in determining how best to regulate drilling activities in their own neighborhoods.


Second, the flat fee per well endorsed by Republicans doesn’t reflect the amount of gas the well produces or the impact a particular well has on the environment and its host community. The fee equates to an estimated 1 percent of a typical well’s production -- far below the extraction taxes collected in other natural gas producing states.


Further, this bill does nothing to adequately protect Pennsylvania's water, air and land from the serious hazards posed by natural gas drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale. House Bill 1950 allows for permit approval to be expedited if an applicant pays an additional fee, is lackluster in holding drillers accountable after potential accidents, and includes insufficient penalties for violations.


On top of all of this, this bill does nothing to help create jobs for Pennsylvania workers. It is clear that the industry is creating jobs; however, the truth is that most of these jobs are filled with workers from out of state – often from Texas or Oklahoma.


With unemployment in parts of the Marcellus Shale region still hovering around 8 to 10 percent, we should be doing everything we can to help spur this industry to hire more Pennsylvania workers.


Joe Brennan represents the 133th Legislative District.


CONTACT: Sara L. Surra
House Democratic Communications Office
Phone: 717-787-7895
Fax: 717-783-6839