Gubernatorial Election 2014 – Marcellus Shale Issues Info Guide
By this time next month, we will know who will be serving the next term as Pennsylvania’s Governor. Personally, I am not a single issue voter, however, if you live in the development area and are receiving or will receive royalty checks as my husband and I do, well, there are some issues regarding Marcellus Shale that are more than issues, they are issues that affect our everyday lives. Issues that affect our everyday lives, are those concerning, perhaps first and foremost regulations that guide the manner in which operations are conducted near our homes, schools, and even hospitals; the enforcement of those regulations; emphasis placed on the areas currently lacking regulations; available funds for much needed infrastructure, such as roads within our region; attention to environmental issues; the state forest lands issue; and the royalty issue. Unfortunately, the nature and tone of the current campaign season is not one that is lent to address such issues. So, what we’ve decided to do in this week’s blog, is provide you with an internet search guide – to assist those interested in these issues, to discover what exactly the candidates have said about them.
Please note, clicking on the green bold faced underlined items will take you directly to the news source mentioned.
This subject is the primary and pretty much only Shale subject spoke of by both candidates. Our Region has greatly benefited by being able to address industry impacts through revenue created by the impact fee. For our Region, it really comes down to certainty vs. uncertainty. Certainty – The impact fee as it now stands is deposited into a separate account from the general fund that through that process guarantees that money is designated for impacts and to those state agencies, such as DEP that are depending on this revenue, which again, returns to our Region, through DEP’s Oil & Gas program’s enforcement and regulatory staff. Uncertainty – Mr. Wolf is offering no exact details on the manner or the mechanism of how monies may return to our Region; there is the uncertainty that most of the assembly’s votes come beyond our Region and therefore, it is anyone’s best guess as to the final provisions of what a severance tax may entail.
Tom Wolfe held the position of Secretary of Revenue (April 2007 – November 2008) under the Rendell Administration. He is promising an extraction tax/severance tax if elected.
The positive economic attributes of the development of the Marcellus Shale in our area are well documented. However, there are issues which need to be addressed relating to how leaseholders / landowners are being treated by a few companies operating in our area. Those issues can be addressed by determining the meaning of Pennsylvania’s guaranteed minimum royalty Act.
Tom Wolfe has made it clear that his ultimate goal is to generate enough revenue to increase the state share of public school costs to 50 percent from about 33 percent. A mechanism he wants to address to do this is the personal income tax currently levied at 3.07%, which includes taxation of royalty income. So, with this formula, will our Region’s royalty owners be supporting schools beyond our Region? Unfortunately, this was the only mention concerning royalties by candidate Wolfe we discovered.
Our region is anticipating more power plants, LNG, compressor stations and other point sources that will affect our regional air quality. According to the Department of Health data our five counties – Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga & Wyoming – have experienced an increase in school age asthma rates since exploitation began.
As Governor, Governor Corbett certainly has the advantage as we are able to easily google an issue, such as air quality and discover something he has done. On the other hand, we google Tom Wolf, and we have to hope that he knows about the issue, understands the issue and has talked about the issue.
Governor Corbett announced grants for Alternative Fuel Vehicles to improve air quality. Some of the grants disbursed went to recipients within the Shale region including Bradford County.
Those of us who live in the Northern Tier Region, do not want their water impacted at all. In other words, we have a zero tolerance for the gas industry impacting our water supplies.
Recently, under Governor Corbett, the state levied $8.65M in penalties to two drillers, Range Resources and EQT, as the result of damage caused by their operations. EQT’s $4.5M penalty was in regards to a site located in Tioga County. These are in addition to penalties levied previously under Governor Corbett’s administration to operators such as Chesapeake Energy and others.
Tom Wolf noted in the third debate, (which we’ve not been able to watch yet, to be aired 6pm on PCN-TV Monday evening) that he would levy a new tax on drillers to raise $1B annually and designate some of that money to DEP for regulations and oversight. That was the only statement we could discover.
SETBACKS, STANDARDS, NOISE
Our region largely lacks local zoning. Our organization promotes the concept of minimal statewide standards that may be further addressed as needed through local zoning. These statewide standards would provide for setbacks with appropriate mitigations and setbacks without.
We were unable to discover anything by either candidate on these items.
QUALITY OF LIFE
We see quality of life issues ranging from jobs to local impacts, to boom & bust economy. Our historically economically depressed region has greatly benefited economically while local impacts have been challenging.
The two candidates ideals regarding quality of life vary from the inclusive way we consider the Marcellus Shale and living within the development area.
Tom Wolf offers another point of view.
STATE FOREST LANDS
Our region contains a considerable portion of public lands, state forest lands, state parks, state game lands and fish commission lands. Currently the Loyalsock State Forest issue concerning the Clarence Moore Lands is of interest to many in our region.
Our candidates have completely opposing views on the Clarence Moore Lands issue.
In 2011, the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission issued a recommendation to regulate rural Class 1 Area location gathering lines. Very little has been done. There are Class 1 Area Registry and corrosion control requirements. Most gathering lines miles in the Northern Tier Region are in unregulated Class 1 Area locations. The current One Call bill while it has passed the House is weakened from the original intent and it does not appear that it will be addressed by the Senate before the end of session (thank goodness, as it is too weak).
Governor Corbett’s office issued a “Report to the General Assembly on Pipeline Placement of Natural Gas Gathering Lines” in December, 2012. The Report recommended PA One Call be extended to all gathering lines. It called for the creation of a statewide mapping of gathering lines. The Recommendations issued by the Governor’s 2011 Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission included a recommendation that the PUC “be given statutory gas safety oversight of non-jurisdictional intra-state gathering systems, including mechanisms to establish safety standards regarding the design, construction and installation of gathering lines in Class 1 areas.”
In a large part, despite the recommendations, nothing has been accomplished by the Pennsylvania Assembly.
Folks in our Region are not single issue voters. They care about many issues that are important to them. We encourage you to investigate the two candidates, do your own google, don’t take our word for it. You may start by accessing their campaign websites and then check them out further from there.
Whatever your choice, please vote on Tuesday, November 4th.
Emily Krafjack, President