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Corbett Clarifying Stance on Impact Fee

The administration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is drafting legislation for an impact fee on natural gas drillers in the state, according to the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Over the past week Corbett said he could support a fee for mitigating local impacts and some statewide issues, but not for unrestricted revenue.

"I could see some going to a dedicated environmental fund, not going into the General Fund, to help with environmental clean-up across Pennsylvania," Corbett told Radio Pennsylvania last week.

To date, Corbett has given only one specific example -- capping hundreds of abandoned gas wells across the state -- but suggested the fund could be used for "prevention" efforts (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8).

"If we can do prevention... that, to me, is much more important that putting money into a fund to be used in a park somewhere else," he said. "We have to clean up the environment before we start building more parks."

The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recently recommended an impact fee to repay local communities for costs that aren't being recovered in other ways, but Corbett said, "There are some communities that do not want an impact fee, because they're doing pretty well without the impact fee" (see Shale Daily, July 19).

He said the industry is "taking care of those communities," particularly through road repair efforts.

Although Pennsylvania is the only producing state without a severance tax, Corbett is opposed to taxing natural gas production because he believes Pennsylvania currently imposes a higher tax burden on businesses than other states. Asked whether a small severance tax might not improve the public image of the natural gas industry, Corbett said, "That means we should concede to a misconception. Sorry, I can't do that.

"We don't do a severance tax on coal. We don't do a severance tax on gravel."

State Sen. John Yudichak, a Democrat from northeastern Pennsylvania, said the history of coal should inform natural gas in a different way. "With no responsible extraction tax in place when coal was king, and with no responsible job strategy, coal boomed and went bust, leaving thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work and turning many of our communities into ghost towns," Yudichak said at a press conference last week. "Are we poised to repeat the same mistake in the Marcellus Shale industry boom that we're experiencing today?"

Yudichak and his colleagues plan to introduce legislation that would fund projects across the state.

"The impact is not felt within the geographic confines of a community. The impact is felt across this Commonwealth," said state Sen. Jay Costa, a Democrat from southwestern Pennsylvania.

Lawmakers continue to add to the numerous proposals floated earlier this year (see Shale Daily, June 13).

State Rep. Camille George, a Democrat from western Pennsylvania, is preparing omnibus legislation to address both environmental regulations and taxation. His bill would impose a 30-cent/Mcf tax adjusted for natural gas prices to raise around $483 million next year to fund various statewide and local programs.

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