Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and Governor Ed Rendell promised to bring a natural gas severance tax to a vote by October 1. They must do far better than that.
Every day of inaction costs commonwealth citizens millions of dollars in lost funds needed for local road upkeep, community services, environmental remediation and necessary economic development. So far, the action has been all talk (hot air), with no substantive plan. That’s the most disturbing thing.
There’s nothing to debate. While one governor-wanna-be says it can be done via income tax, national and multi-national energy companies pay little to nothing in state income taxes. And while talk goes on, gas industry lobbyists feverishly work to defeat legislative proposals and dramatically cut fee impact by exempting the most productive years of the wells.
Put a task force to work – now!
A public task force should already be working on a plan to distribute severance revenues where Marcellus shale exploration will have its greatest impact – not to solve the state’s budget deficit or fund more “fun in Philly”.
Billions are needed to conserve vanishing farmland and natural areas, restore streams, fix and expand local parks, clean up contaminated property, and stimulate local economic development. Thousands of people could be put to work – or back to work – building a better future in rural Pennsylvania.
Many groups want a “cut” of the severance pot. One worthy proposal is to dedicate part of those revenues to the Environmental Stewardship Fund, to rejuvenate the Growing Greener program.
But economic development must go hand in hand with farmland and environmental preservation. That means a portion of severance tax must be devoted to developing agriculture – an Agricultural Development Fund, if you want to call it that.
New York’s Farm Viability Institute is an enormously successful model of blending applied research with on-farm economic development. It’s controlled by an all-farmer board of impassioned directors who want results that can be multiplied. The board is made up of the leaders – not sit-in representatives – of New York’s key ag industries – not just dairy.
We must seize this opportunity – now! Otherwise, Pennsylvania will end up with far more unused, unproductive wastelands such as those left in the wake of America’s first oil boom in Venango County, Pa.
Time is money, and Commonwealth leaders are wasting both. Worse, they are giving away your children’s future.
Your comments are welcome and wanted. Just click on “Add a Comment”.