Rendell Visits Wellsboro in Push for Natural Gas Extraction Severance Tax

Rendell pushes severance tax, speaks about road damage from heavy trucks

WELLSBORO – Governor Ed Rendell visited Wellsboro in Tioga County on Friday to push for a natural gas extraction severance tax.

According to Rendell, he joins 8 out of 10 Pennsylvanians in supporting a severance tax. Rendell was referring to a recent poll that included 504 interviews conducted between August 16 – 18 by Republican pollster Frank Luntz and Democrat pollster Jefrey Pollock. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

Rendell said, ““I share the view of the eight out of 10 Pennsylvanians who, in a recent poll, said that they favor a tax on gas companies to fund programs that will protect our environment and help local governments handle increased demand on their services.”

The Governor talked about the infancy of the Marcellus Shale Play saying, “The Marcellus Shale gas industry is just getting started in Pennsylvania, so we have the opportunity now to ensure that adequate resources are available for local and state government to meeting growing demand for services and protect the environment.” He added, “To accomplish these goals, the gas companies profiting from this rapidly growing industry should be willing to pay a fair share levy.”

He went on to say the new drilling industry has helped Tioga County weather the recession better than others, noting that the county unemployment rate dropped more than one percent to 9.1 percent in the past year. “That’s still too high, but it is heading in the right direction and is now below the statewide average.”

He did however say that these economic benefits are not without cost, saying that heavy truck traffic is putting pressure on local roadways and bridges, and leading to weight restrictions being imposed on three bridges in the past four months.

He said of the 1,722 miles of roads covered by bonds posted by Marcellus Shale drillers statewide, 1,067 of them have been damaged.

Last year Rendell proposed a severance tax much like that in effect in Virginia. The tax would call for a straight 5% tax, with an additional 4.7 cents per cubic foot of gas produced.

He went on to say that although Pennsylvania is the 15th largest natural gas producing state in the country, it is the only major fossil fuel producer that does not levy a tax on natural gas extraction. As part of the state budget deal reached in July, the General Assembly agreed to enact a severance tax by October 1.

According to the Governor’s news release, there have been 1,765 natural gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania this year, and of those 848 have been drilled to access gas deposits within the Marcellus Shale. Tioga County has seen 171 of those wells.

The DEP has issued nearly 4,195 drilling permits this year, of which 1,915 were for Marcellus development. The department is on track to issue approximately 2,700 Marcellus permit this year, which is a 36-percent increase over permits issued in 2009.

Information obtained from Governor Rendell news release. Photo from Commonwealth Media Services.

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