Local Lawmakers Support Sharing Natural Gas Tax With Local Govts.

Potter County Today

Spokesmen for State Senator Joe Scarnati and State Representative Martin Causer said the two local lawmakers support carving out a substantial portion of revenue from any tax on natural gas production for counties and townships where drilling is taking place. They made their remarks at Saturday’s annual convention of the Potter County Association of Township Officials.

Senator Scarnati’s district aide, Chuck Dillon (shown) of Tioga County, discussed some of the behind-the-scenes negotiating and information gathering that has been taking place in Harrisburg since the General Assembly and Gov. Ed Rendell approved a plan to impose a severance tax on natural gas, in part to balance the state’s 2010-11 budget.

Sen Scarnati has proposed a tax revenue distribution plan that would carve out one-third for county and local governments, one-third for the state general fund, and one-third for a variety of environmental programs, including extension of the broad-based Growing Greener program. Dillon pointed out that the severance tax is one of many proposals being debated by lawmakers affecting natural gas drilling. Among areas being considered are changes in forced pooling/fair pooling of subsurface rights, minimum setbacks, landowner rights issues, presumption of liability for water quality degradation, and other issues that are arising as Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling intensifies.

Suzan Paisley of Potter County, district aide for Rep. Causer, said he expects the severance tax to go through. Lawmakers are deeply divided on the form of the tax and its distribution formula, Paisley added. Causer supports a significant share of the revenue being shared with local governments in those townships and counties where drilling is taking place, she said.

Also at Saturday’s convention, Commissioner Paul Heimel reported that the Board of Commissioners had sent more than 300 personalized letters to members of the state Senate and House seeking support for a carve-out of the severance tax revenue for county and township governments.

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