Pennsylvania lawmakers need to be held to their promise to pass "a substantial severance tax" on Marcellus Shale natural gas production, according to Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture), which is planning a series of rallies across the state in support of a tax.

"The drilling companies are spending enormous amounts of money to stop the severance tax," said PennFuture CEO Jan Jarrett. "They have hired lobbyists of every stripe -- including former Gov. Tom Ridge -- and are working hard to keep the voice of the people from being heard. The drillers will make enormous profits from the natural gas they take from our land -- it's only fair that they pay a reasonable tax that will go to protect our environment and local communities that 'host' the drilling, fund our natural resource agencies, and help balance our budget."

Members of the state's General Assembly said they would enact a severance tax by Oct. 1 as part of a budget deal adopted before their summer recess (see Daily GPI, July 2).

Speakers at a recent conference on Marcellus Shale opportunities said gas producers should be prepared to pay a severance tax (see Daily GPI, Aug. 23).

"Quite frankly, the argument that's been made against the severance tax has been that this is an infant industry that needs to find its legs in Pennsylvania," John Quigley, secretary of the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said at the conference. "Poor little infant Exxon; my heart bleeds for it...This industry's not going anywhere. It's the most productive play in the world -- at least has the prospects of it -- and the industry's not getting taxed out of the state by the very, very reasonable proposal that the governor has put into place."

According to PennFuture, a recent poll taken shows that nearly everyone in the state supports a tax. "Three out of four voters in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia want the legislature to pass a severance tax," Jarrett said. "The support is even stronger in rural areas, with 84% supporting the tax. Three out of four Republicans support the tax, and 79% of Democrats want the tax passed."

PennFuture's "Keep the Promise Tour" will consist of town hall meetings across the state. Stops on the tour are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required two days prior to each stop. There will be no onsite registration. A schedule, speaker list and registration are available at www.pennfuture.org/keepthepromise or by calling (717) 214-7920.

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