Fight against state tax on gas extraction gets expensive
Sunday, January 17, 2010
By Bill Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In the last two years, energy companies with a stake in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying and making campaign contributions to legislators, congressmen and the governor, partly in hopes of postponing a tax on the extraction of natural gas.
They also are laying the groundwork for future political battles. Range Resources Energy Independence PAC, for example, donated $5,000 each to Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett and to Democratic Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, both gubernatorial candidates, in the waning months of 2009.
Pennsylvania sits above a veritable “gold mine” of natural gas: a layer of rock called the Marcellus Shale which lies underneath 2/3 of the commonwealth (as well as much of our neighboring states) and contains what may be the largest natural gas reserve in the United States.
In 2008, a study estimated the size of the Marcellus Shale to be 80-250 times greater than previously thought, which attracted the attention of the natural gas industry — the substantial investment to drill wells more than a mile deep suddenly seemed extremely profitable — and in the last two years companies have flocked to Pennsylvania to apply for drilling permits and build wells. Already, there are nearly 600 wells in operation in Pennsylvania, with many more permits pending and expected.
AVELLA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – A Pennsylvania landowner is suing an energy company for polluting his soil and water in an attempt to link a natural gas drilling technique with environmental contamination.
George Zimmermann, the owner of 480 acres in Washington County, southwest Pennsylvania, says Atlas Energy Inc. ruined his land with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.
Water tests at three locations by gas wells on Zimmermann’s property — one is 1,500 feet from his home — found seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above “screening levels” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as warranting further investigation.
Victoria Switzer at her home in Dimock, Pa., where 13 water wells, including hers, are contaminated from chemicals used in the gas extraction process nicknamed “fracking.” Photo: Fred R. Conrad / New York Times
by edward berbaum
I live near Dimock PA and it is not like “America” any more. More like Iraq. Homeowners are trapped, unable to sell their homes and live in fear every day of illness, noise, very bad roads, unable to drink their water from the natural source. Children can no longer play outdoors. It is the worst assault I have seen on innocent Americans. Mr. Greg Vitali should be Governor ! The way he thinks and communicates is on the correct side of this act of, what I call terrorism against PA residents. The landmen LIED to leases signed and I do not mean “A” Landmen I mean ALL landmen as far as I have found. It is a criminal act that has not been dealt with. Thank you Mr. Vitali for your efforts. Hope you stay with us.
The state must deal with environmental questions before it allows more drilling.
By Greg Vitali
Gov. Rendell plans to lease more state forest land for Marcellus Shale gas drilling, perhaps as early as this spring, to raise an additional $180 million for the 2010-11 budget. This would be in addition to the almost 700,000 acres of state forest land already available for drilling.
But no one knows what the environmental impact of the anticipated drilling will be. That’s why I have introduced legislation to impose a moratorium on further leasing until we know more.
One-and-a-half million acres of Pennsylvania forest land sits atop the Marcellus Shale formation. With the leasing of 32,000 acres last month, 692,000 acres of state forest land is now available for drilling. The remaining unleased public land is environmentally sensitive, containing old-growth forests, fragile ecosystems, and rare and endangered species.