The decision on whether to impose a severance tax on gas drilling involves more than just finding the right economic timing. The revenue properly directed can provide the means for anticipating and addressing community concerns about issues ranging from water quality to road maintenance.
So far, Governor Rendell and various interest groups want to pour severance tax money into shoring up state spending. I will oppose any severance tax plan that has as its primary purpose filling a hole in the state budget.
With the sharp increase in drilling activity, the industry seems to have established its foothold. We have to make sure state oversight and emergency response capacities keep pace.
If there is a reasonable tax proposal out there to dedicate the money for local purposes, such as increasing scrutiny before and after permitting, providing better protection of our water resources, and making sure there are funds in place to quickly fix problems before they become catastrophic, then that is something legislators must consider.
Some of these gas wells are being located very close to reservoirs that provide drinking water. There is legitimate public concern about these sites. The margin for error is too small; the risks if something goes wrong are too great.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson