Don't worry. Lehigh County Commissioners have no authority to enact a severance tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale. But it does have the power to ask the General Assembly to restore funding to the local conservation districts and consider using any taxes levied on drilling in Marcellus Shale. In a Resolution sponsored by Dr. Percy Dougherty last night, that's exactly what happened. The vote was 6 -3, which Chairman Dean Browning, Glenn Eckhart and Andy Roman opposed.
I have a "cliff notes" version of last night's meeting in the above, 9-minute, Youtube movie. It includes two tea party members as well as an interesting Marcellus Shale debate.
Dr. Percy Dougherty: "The state has been reneging on its responsibility to give the conservation district, funding. W are having to cut some funding out of the conservation district this year because of budget problems. I think it's only fair that we put pressure on the state to try to restore some of this funding. The state has a big shortage of money, too. ... This particular resolution is not supporting a tax on the Marcellus. .. It is just stating that if a tax is enacted, that we want to see part of this funding go to the conservation district. ... This is an amount, in Lehigh County alone, of over $92,000. ... The conservation district is our main line of defense, safeguarding the environment ..."
"This is just an attempt here to let our legislative delegation know that we want to see them live up to their responsibilities and pay their bills.
Glenn Eckhart: "Let's not give our legislators a chance to say, here is something, where if I vote for this, I can raise revenue, and tax something. So let's not give them the option. This is about ending the dependence on foreign oil, and it shouldn't be taxed."
Andy Roman: "Marcellus Shale is a huge economic boon for Pennsylvania, and I don't know if we should be encouraging additional taxes ... . My view is it's going to produce a lot of jobs, it's going to produce a lot of revenue ... I don't know if you should be taxing an industry that's in its infant stage."
Dan McCarthy: "The conservation issue deals with the environment, our natural waterways, it deals with development and the destruction of our soils and water systems ... . This type of drilling operation is going to impact our waterways, our goundwater, our soil; we're going to have to deal with the consequences of that."
Dean Browning: "I have no problem with us calling them out for the fact that they have put in place a program and then reneged on the funding for that program. I think we should call them out. However, as part of that, I don't think it's incumbent on us to identify a revenue source for them to use to facilitate the commitment they've already made. ... We are taking a tax that has not been enacted and are already spending it."
Bill Hansell: "Those who are opposed to this should be prepared to vote to increase the funding for the conservation district."
Gloria Hamm: "Pennsylvania is the only one of 15 gas producing states that doesn't have any kind of impact fee on the drillers. Part of the impact fee should be used to protect natural resources and repair any collateral damage that the drilling causes."
Dr. Percy Dougherty (Round Two): "The state is in such a financial hole right now that they're going to have to get out of it somehow. If you do multiple choice, what is the state legislature going to do? Are they going to pass the severance tax, or are they going to pass an increase in the state income tax or arr they going to pass an increase in the sales tax? I think it's more likely that they're going to go with the severance tax. That's the way everything is headed."