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Pa Environment Digest June 9, 2014

Pa Environment Digest June 9, 2014

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A weekly newsletter about environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, including Marcellus Shale natural gas development.
A weekly newsletter about environmental issues facing Pennsylvania, including Marcellus Shale natural gas development.

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Published by: www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com on Jun 07, 2014
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06/07/2014

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PA Environment Digest
An Update On Environmental Issues In PA
Edited By: David E. Hess, Crisci Associates
Winner 2009 PAEE Business Partner Of The Year Award Harrisburg, Pa June 9, 2014 PEC: Any Severance Tax Should Go First To Environmental Restoration, Protection
Davitt Woodwell, Executive Vice President for PA Environmental Council, issued the following statement Monday on state budget negotiations and the potential for a severance tax on natural gas development. “Many legislators in the General Assembly are introducing new legislation that would enact a severance tax on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, and with it, bring an end to desperately-needed shale gas revenues for environmental protection. “Different severance tax proposals are also being advanced by the candidates for governor. Already there is a confusing flurry of words and numbers to support or challenge this legislation, dissect how the tax should be calculated, and decide how the monies should be spent. “What’s behind all this? Big money. “For years Pennsylvania considered enacting a severance tax, but ultimately the county-by-county impact fee established by Act 13 of 2012 won out. Funds from those fees have reached $630 million and are used for a variety of critical programs. And while that number may seem large, it is dwarfed by potential revenues a severance tax would generate. “Because Pennsylvania is facing a significant budget shortfall in the next year, policy makers of all stripes see the potential of a severance tax as a solution to their revenue problems. “The problem is that most of the discussion of severance tax focuses on spending the money significantly or solely on education at the expense of environmental protection. And while quality education is a critical piece of ensuring Pennsylvania’s future, the proposals are being made to the immediate detriment of Pennsylvania’s environmental health and public resources. “The very legislation that authorized the imposition of impact fees includes a sunset provision for those fees the moment a severance tax is passed in Pennsylvania. That means critical support for state government oversight of the natural gas industry, as well as funding for an array of restoration and recreational programs – which deliver tangible economic and quality of life benefits to the people of Pennsylvania – will disappear overnight. It will also increase pressure to open up more state forest and  park lands for natural gas development. “This situation is unacceptable. “Any severance tax must dedicate a significant share of revenues to supporting state agencies charged with overseeing the natural gas industry, as well as for initiatives like combating enormous environmental legacy issues like abandoned mine drainage, watershed restoration, protecting key habitats, and restoring and enhancing our public lands and recreational amenities. “Revenues from a severance tax should also expand and make permanent the standing executive order to prohibit any future development on state forest and park land.
 
“Pennsylvania has a long history of both environmental devastation and renewal. The General Assembly and Governor should not abdicate their responsibility, or the opportunity presented by a severance tax, to restore our Commonwealth and to protect against future impacts to the resources owned and enjoyed by all Pennsylvanians.
NewsClips:
Wolf Lobbies Lawmakers To Pass Severance Tax Wolf Lobbies Corbett, Lawmakers To Pass Severance Tax
 
Op-Ed: Now Is The Time To Approve Shale Tax, Tom Wolf 
 
Energy Companies Pay More In Gas Well Impact Fees In 2013 Drilling Impact Fee Revenue Totals $225M For 2013 Drilling Impact Fee Distribution Figures Released  Northeast PA To Receive $36.8 Million In Impact Fees Lancaster’s Share Of Impact Fee $500,000 DCNR Told Corbett Not To Lease More Forest Land For Drilling Official Tells Court: No One At DCNR Recommended Gas Leasing Corbett’s Own Witness Lukewarm To More Gas Leasing
 
Leasing More State Land For Gas Drilling Not Sustainable Rendell Appointee: Leasing More State Land Not Sustainable Letter: Corbett Aide Responds To Patriot-News Leasing Editorial Lawmakers Scrambling To Seal Budget By June 30 Deadline Looms For PA State Budget Brunch Time For Lawmakers, Lobbyists On Budget Time For Bold Action On Budget In PA Lawmakers Regard Budget Debate With Apprehension 
Related Story:
Update On Natural Gas Severance Tax Proposals In the Senate, House 
Growing Greener Coalition Says Include The Environment In Any Severance Tax
The PA Growing Greener Coalition Tuesday urged state legislators to include funding for environmental  programs and initiatives in any legislation that would enact a severance tax on natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania. “Any severance tax must dedicate funds toward the protection of our land, air and water,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Coalition. “The Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition urges lawmakers to remember the critical need for funding to protect our farms and open spaces, restore our waterways, enhance our parks and trails, conserve our wildlife habitat, and preserve our historic sites and heritage areas.” The Coalition  pointed to a new survey that found overwhelming public support for continuing existing dedicated state funding for conservation and for increasing state funding to protect land, water and historic sites. Overall, the survey found that more than 97.4 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed think that state funds dedicated to protecting rivers and streams; conserving open space, forests, natural areas and wildlife habitats; providing parks and trails, and preserving farmland should continue to be used for these  purposes. This figure represented strong bipartisan support, and is up by five percentage points since 2012.
 
The survey also found that more than three-quarters of respondents – 82.6 percent – would support increasing state funds to address these issues, even if it would cost the average household $10 more annually. This figure is up from 77.7 percent in 2012. The survey was conducted between March 17 and April 16 this year by the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg. The survey questions were commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land. “Public support for protecting Pennsylvania’s extraordinary natural and historic treasures has always been strong, and this survey shows that it continues to grow,” said Heath. “If there is to be a severance tax on natural gas extraction, it makes sense that a significant portion should be invested in the forests, fields, rivers and streams that Pennsylvanians value so highly.” Despite the success of such programs like the Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund; Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund; Agricultural Preservation; Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund; Heritage Areas Program, and Historic Preservation, there is much more work that needs to be done. Consider that: -- The Commonwealth has 19,000 miles of rivers and streams that do not meet basic water quality standards; -- More than 2,000 family farms remain on the statewide list for preservation; -- Pennsylvania continues to lose more forest, wildlife habitat, farmland and other open spaces to overdevelopment than we are able to preserve; and -- Abandoned mines still scar almost 220,000 acres across the Commonwealth and are the cause of more than 5,000 miles of dead streams. Investments in conservation, recreation, and preservation also bolster the economy. A Trust for Public Land study found that for every $1 invested in land and water conservation, $7 in natural goods and services is returned to the state of Pennsylvania. Moreover, investments in parks, trails, greenways, and open space add billions of dollars to  property values and help support Pennsylvania’s tourism and recreation industry. A report by the Outdoor Industry Association indicates that outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue and supports 219,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs. In addition, conservation funding is an essential component for meeting federal Clean Water Act mandates associated with the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint and the need to reduce pollution in our local rivers and streams. The Coalition also strongly supports preserving the funding provided by the current impact fee in order to address the impacts of drilling on communities and the environment. “Communities across Pennsylvania have benefited from the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund,” said Heath. “These investments and the economic and quality of life benefits they bring must continue.” The PA Growing Greener Coalition is the largest coalition of conservation, recreation and  preservation organizations in the Commonwealth.
NewsClips:
 Wolf Lobbies Lawmakers To Pass Severance Tax Wolf Lobbies Corbett, Lawmakers To Pass Severance Tax
 
Op-Ed: Now Is The Time To Approve Shale Tax, Tom Wolf 
 
Energy Companies Pay More In Gas Well Impact Fees In 2013 Drilling Impact Fee Revenue Totals $225M For 2013 Drilling Impact Fee Distribution Figures Released 

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