FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pa. House Democratic Caucus
House Democrats unveil ‘Marcellus Compact’ to fix flawed shale drilling law
Six-point plan puts Pennsylvanians first, rather than the multi-billion-dollar oil and gas industry
HARRISBURG, April 30 – House Democrats today launched a renewed effort to fix Gov. Tom Corbett’s industry-friendly Marcellus Shale law (Act 13), offering a six-point plan – the Marcellus Compact.
Noting that the new law provides one of the lowest tax rates in the nation on natural gas drillers and weak environmental protections, House Democrats unveiled their Marcellus Compact – a promise to put the interests of Pennsylvanians first, rather than the oil and gas industry for whom, and by whom, Act 13 was written.
"House Democrats are committed to a strong Marcellus Shale law that puts Pennsylvania taxpayers, workers and families first, unlike the current law supported by Governor Corbett and his allies, which is a sweetheart deal for the multi-billion-dollar oil and gas industry," said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny. "The Marcellus Compact places Pennsylvania’s priorities where they ought to be – with the people who live and work here, not with wealthy, multinational oil and gas corporations."
The Marcellus Compact includes components to:
· restore municipal zoning authority by eliminating Act 13’s override of local zoning provisions;
· ensure tax fairness for Pennsylvanians by imposing a reasonable statewide tax on natural gas drillers for the life of the well;
· protect critical natural resources by increasing environmental setbacks and bonding requirements;
· increase transparency and safety by establishing a public online tracking system for fracking wastewater storage and disposal; prohibiting drilling in floodplains; and placing a moratorium on discharging drilling wastewater into surface waters;
· guarantee the rights of patients to full medical disclosure and transparency when their health might have been affected by fracking chemicals; and
· make jobs a priority by establishing a Marcellus Shale Job Creation Tax Credit to provide incentives for companies to hire Pennsylvania workers.
"Taken together, all six of these bills represent the Marcellus Compact – our promise to put the interests of Pennsylvanians first," said Democratic Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre. "House Democrats promise to be the people’s voice and their advocate in Harrisburg, because it’s clear they’re not being heard by this governor or his Republican allies."
Hanna’s bill would ensure the big oil and gas industry pays its fair share of taxes in Pennsylvania, while Dermody’s bill would restore the zoning rights of communities to determine how best to regulate drilling – including in areas with streams, public water supplies, schools, playgrounds and churches.
In addition to Act 13’s weak fee and zoning override, the Corbett Marcellus Shale law also includes inadequate environmental safeguards that provide little real protection for the public water supply, air and land. That’s why Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, and Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, proposed bills that put the health of the environment ahead of the oil and gas companies’ interests.
"The Corbett Marcellus Shale law falls woefully short of providing adequate protections of our public water supply and critical environmental resources," Mundy said. "The Marcellus Compact – including my bill – aims to fix those glaring failures in this new law.”
"The Corbett-Republican Marcellus Shale Law gave the oil and gas drilling industry a free pass to wreak havoc on our water supply, our air and our land," Santarsiero said. "The Marcellus Compact corrects those injustices and puts the interests of Pennsylvanians first by protecting our environment for today’s residents and for future generations."
The Marcellus Compact also seeks to repair a distressing and potentially dangerous provision in the Corbett Marcellus Shale law which could prohibit doctors from providing critical health care information regarding drilling activities to their patients.
Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring a bill in the Marcellus Compact that would make explicit the right of doctors to get certain information from drilling companies and share it with patients and other medical providers without violating confidentiality agreements.
“Politicians shouldn’t come between doctors and their patients. Public health should be our primary concern when it comes to legitimate questions raised by medical professionals,” Bradford said. “Ensuring public health requires open dialogue between medical professionals, their patients and the public. My bill makes clear that neither politicians, nor multi-national corporations, should stand in the way of public health.”
The Marcellus Compact also places a top priority on creating jobs for Pennsylvania workers in the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming, is sponsoring a bill in the Marcellus Compact that would create a Marcellus Shale Job Creation Tax Credit program.
"The Marcellus Shale law ignores the needs of our workers and provides no incentives to help create jobs for Pennsylvanians," Mirabito said. "My bill in the Marcellus Compact is aimed at giving more Pennsylvania workers the chance to benefit from this incredible economic growth that the natural gas industry has brought to our region. Yes, this industry is creating jobs, but we can do better for our workers."
Dermody noted that House Democrats have taken the lead on pushing legislative strategies aimed at creating jobs and improving Pennsylvania’s economy. In October, House Democrats unveiled JumpstartPA, a 10-point plan to boost the economy and get Pennsylvanians back to work.
"Where is Governor Corbett’s jobs plan? Where is his leadership on the issues that matter most to middle-class Pennsylvanians?” asked Dermody. "For the past 15 months, Governor Corbett and his Republican allies in the legislature have proven time and again that their priorities are out of whack.
"It’s time we put Pennsylvanians first."