PA sits on top of a huge natural gas deposit (for some background, check out some prior posts HERE and HERE), and the subsidies the state can charge the corporations drilling to collect this gas will naturally bolster the state budget. Makes sense, right?
There was a very compelling column in the Philadelphia Inquirer today by Daniel Rubin that spoke of an unfortunate irony that is unfolding on this very subject.
The short of Mr. Rubin's article is that yes, the state will make money leasing over 660,000 acres of forest for gas drilling. But unlike 39 other states, PA has chosen not to levy a tax on gas collected from drilling. What are we missing out on by not taxing? How about an estimated $100-600 million in revenue through 2014! His closing was also very poignant:
"These woods belong to all Pennsylvanians. Seems to me that if we're not going to preserve them, we ought to make sure we get better paid."
Now let me be clear, I'm on the record as not being a big fan of this drilling at all. It uses a lot of local water to run these drilling operations and if unmonitored it will devastate waterways - trout streams included. Unfortunately since there's a lot of money to be made, it's going to continue no matter what - environment be damned.
That's why I'm also compelled to post this link to the Clean Water Action website that urges folks to contact Governor Rendell and their local Representatives to reject this budget plan. The entire statement is below, but if you click on the link there is a form that will automatically email the appropriate legislators on your behalf.
From the Clean Water Action Website:
Tearing up 100,000 acres of forest is no kind of budget solution! Support a tax on natural gas drilling!
In the budget deal agreed upon by Senate Leaders and the Governor last Friday, the state is mandated to lease approximately 100,000 acres of our most pristine forests for natural gas exploration.
Make no mistake, natural gas exploration will wreck these areas for hiking, fishing, hunting and the other outdoor activities. Drilling operations will clearcut wide swaths through the forest and huge well pads, and they won't replace the trees when they are done.
They are doing this because we are in a budget crisis and the state desperately needs revenue, but there's a much less destructive solution: levy a small tax on drilling rigs already underway and planned on private land. There's no way a small tax would stop or even hinder these developments, but it would protect our state's wildlands for generations of tourists.
With such a tax, we could also provide additional funds to the Department of Environmental Protection to make sure they have the manpower to oversee natural gas drilling. Last week, all the aquatic life in Dunkard Creek in Western, Pennsylvania was killed in what seems to have been multiple incidents of illegal dumping of wastewater from drilling operations. They got away with it because no one was watching.
Take action today. Send an e-mail to the Governor and your State Representatives and tell them to reject this budget deal. Tell them to support a budget that maintains the protection for Pennsylvanians.