Rep. George: Natural Gas Industry Got Its Corbett Valentine
Rep. Camille "Bud" George (D-Clearfield), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Tuesday said that industrial gas drillers received a sweetheart deal from the Corbett administration just in time for Valentine’s Day.
"A review of the 27 ‘suggestions’ the industry made to House Republican leaders for the final Marcellus shale legislation shows it got its wishes on 23 of them," said Rep. George of Clearfield County. "Some were not complete compliance with industry desires, but an overall score of 85 percent is a pretty substantial kiss."
Rep. George said that on January 12, the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania addressed correspondence to the House Speaker, the Majority Leader and Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, the author of House Bill 1950, with "several" suggestions to amend the bill’s final language.
"The industry got its way on everything from reducing the presumed liability of a well polluting water sources to eliminating language requiring operators to conduct free pre-drilling surveys for landowners with wells between 2,500 and 5,000 feet from a well," said Rep. George of the bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett. "It seems the industry barked and the Republicans heeled."
The industry’s "suggestions" are available online.
"It was stated – erroneously – on the House floor that the pre-drilling survey language was included in the conference committee report," Rep. George said. "It is not in the bill, despite having twice won approval in the House."
Rep. George said the pitiful tax rate to be paid by the industry – a fraction of what Pennsylvanians pay in sales or state income taxes – risks further irrelevance by reports that producing counties may not opt in to the "impact fee."
"Proponents touted House Bill 1950 as ‘compromise’ legislation when in fact the measure – and the pittance it would collect for local and statewide impacts – seemingly will be compromised," Rep. George said. "The projected revenues were a joke but now could be a laughing stock."
Rep. George said proposals by Democratic members of the conference committee deserve consideration. The proposals would:
-- Increase initial per-well fee to $60,000 – from $50,000 – and improve first-year revenues by $35 million;
-- Decrease fee by $5,000 a year but make fees last for 20 years, not 15;
-- Eliminate county option; and
-- Bolster environmental safeguards of water by establishing setbacks from the edge of a well pad.
"As it now stands, House Bill 1950 has me torn about which Valentine’s Day ad is the most fitting description," Rep. George said. "Is it ‘Give and You Will Receive’ or ‘Every Kiss Begins with… Campaign Contributions?’"
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