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Marcellus Shale Top Priority for Senate Session

Soon the legislature will return to Harrisburg to begin our legislative session.  Of the many issues up for debate this session, Marcellus Shale, specifically, how to adequately and reasonably impose a severance fee on the natural gas industry is perhaps the most important topic that will be debated.

job_creationThroughout the summer, I have traveled around the state to discuss the importance of a  fair and responsible severance fee that would benefit the entire Commonwealth, not one that would only benefit only those communities where drilling occurs, as suggested by the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

The fact is, the impact of Marcellus Shale is not only isolated to those communities on the front line of the industry.  The ripple effects of natural gas drilling reaches into every corner of our state -- from pipeline safety and water quality concerns in the Southeast to the need for quality jobs statewide.

Right now we have an opportunity to grow our economy and boost job creation throughout Pennsylvania - a fact that seems to get buried in the Marcellus Shale debate. The industry is benefitting greatly from the abundant resource existing in the ground under Pennsylvania. That prosperity should be shared. 

The potential to create jobs in pipeline construction and other manufacturing sectors can’t be underestimated. Just as national indicators show a significant drop in manufacturing, Pennsylvania has been handed a golden opportunity. Manufacturing, construction and other industries should be a part of the Marcellus Shale equation. It is sound economic development and job creation strategy.

job_pressRecently I discussed the potential impacts and job creation opportunities presented by the growing Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania at the Wilkes-Barre Riverfront Commons. Click image to hear more.

By increasing the use of gas from Marcellus Shale wells to heat homes and fuel cars, we bolster Pennsylvania’s clean energy efforts – again creating jobs. With five major U.S. pipelines in Southeast Pennsylvania, stepping up our efforts to improve both productivity and safety would be a valuable investment. Further developing our railways and ports and investing in a natural gas corridor will strengthen our abilities to get natural gas to market, boosting Pennsylvania’s economy further.

If we continue to brush this issue aside, the Marcellus Shale industry could become the “King Coal” of this generation, where our natural resources are extracted from the ground and sent to fuel the world while Pennsylvania taxpayers are stuck with the clean-up bill. In many cases, we are still forced to pay significantly to clean up a site before it can be developed to attract business. Decades later, we are still dealing with the scars left by coal companies that are now long gone.

This past session, I worked with several colleagues from both sides of the aisle to craft common-sense legislation for such a Marcellus Shale severance fee that would benefit all Pennsylvanians.  The legislation would have generated approximately $205 million in the first year and $260 million in the second year.  The funds would have been distributed to conservation districts, emergency responders, local governments, Growing Greener programs and the Hazardous Sites Cleanup fund.  Despite bi-partisan support, the measure was not voted on, and implementation of a Marcellus Shale energy policy for Pennsylvania fell by the wayside.

With the recommendations of the Commission having been released in July, there is no reason to delay any further. We must press ahead and pass a fair and reasonable severance fee on drilling as soon as the legislature returns to session. Further delay in the legislature will only delay the benefits of Marcellus Shale and the booming industry it brought here from being realized by all Pennsylvanians.

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For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me on the Internet through my website or on Facebook.

June 22, 2011 - Senate Democrats to Discuss Marcellus Shale Fee Amendment June 26, 2011 - Senate and House Democrats joined today to urge Republican leaders to “do the right thing” and pass a responsible severance fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.