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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Penn Future Asseses Legislation Passed This Week In House & Senate

A bad week of sausage making for drilling legislation
Penn Future
When Mark Twain (or maybe Otto Von Bismarck, we always get them confused) said that if you like laws and sausage you should watch neither one being made, he had this week's Marcellus debates in mind. The House and Senate both passed drilling bills that favor the gas drillers over Pennsylvania taxpayers. And in the case of the House, watching the process turned stomachs.

Senate passes flawed drilling bill
The Senate passed Senate Bill 1100 by a 29-20 vote. A series of improvements were made to the bill, but the Senate rejected amendments by Senator Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, and Senator Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, that would have substantially improved the local zoning provisions and the funding for the statewide impact fee. SB 1100 imposes a statewide impact fee with an effective tax rate of 2.2 percent, well below the rate of most states that impose a drilling tax or fee. The bill dedicates fifty-five percent of the revenue to host communities, while 45 percent goes to statewide uses including water projects, bridge repairs, and conservation and recreational projects. Country conservation districts and the Fish & Boat Commission also receive funding in the bill. The fiscal note for SB 1100 has a good summary of the bill.

SB 1100 also changes many requirements of the Oil and Gas Act. There are some good provisions here, but others need strengthening especially the section on bonding.

House passes terrible drilling bill
Yesterday the House delivered an early holiday gift to the multinational drilling companies by a 107-76 vote. House Bill 1950 contains an embarrassingly low impact fee with an effective tax rate of one percent—a pittance compared to other gas producing states. So the drillers dance away without paying their fair share while families struggle with cuts to education, human services and other programs.

To make matters worse, unlike the Senate's statewide impact fee, this pittance of an impact fee is optional for counties to adopt. And if counties do adopt it, the minimal fee levels are not required; in fact, they are a ceiling. Deep-pocketed drilling companies could lobby counties not to adopt the fee or play neighboring counties off each other. Counties do not have the administrative capacity right now to impose a fee. If all the counties in the shale region assess the fee it will create 40 more bureaucracies that currently do not exist.

Hardball for the drillers
There was strong, bipartisan support for amendments from both Republicans and Democrats that would have significantly improved HB 1950. Leadership used parliamentary tricks to prevent members from voting on them. Then late Wednesday the House Republican leadership used a parliamentary nuclear option to cut off all consideration of further amendments Representative Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, noted that this strong-armed tactic had only been used in the House 30 times between 1961 and 2010, but has now been used nine times this session.

Local municipalities will have their hands tied
Both SB 1100 and HB 1950 would sharply restrict the limited powers that local governments can use to manage the impact of drilling in their communities. Under both bills, local ordinances cannot regulate or "conflict with" oil and gas operations. This provision could be the basis for invalidating even the most light-handed zoning ordinance. Gas wells and huge wastewater impoundments would be allowed in residential areas if they were at least 300 feet from a building, and local governments could not place stronger restrictions on gas operations near schools, hospitals, etc.

Next steps
The end game for the drilling legislation will likely involve closed-door negotiations between Governor Corbett, the Senate and House Republican leadership, and the gas drillers. The resulting deal will likely be amended into a bill in one chamber (probably the Senate), then sent back to the other chamber (probably the House) for an up or down vote on concurrence.

Citizens need to tell their legislators not vote for this deal unless it significantly improves.


Anonymous said...

Shame on you Martin Causer. You just told every township in your district that they can go F(*&K themselves.

What a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Good thing the world ends in little over a year. I don't think we can take much more of this crap.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marcellus Marty... You screwed the pooch this time buddy. Better clean out you office.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I agree With all the above SHAME ON YOU MARTY CAUSER 111111 Don't look for my vote next time though you probably won't need that job next time. I feel in my heart that you all got paid off very well. I hope that you don't have to worry about the water you and your family will be drinking when all this comes down and none of us have pure water to drink. Thanks a lot!!!boola

Anonymous said...

You people remind me of the Occupy movement. Bitch, bitch, bitch, but don't bother working through the system (the only system we have) to do something about it. That requires too much work. If Representative Causer's actions disappoint you, let him know and if he is not open to reason then replace him with the great power you have -- your vote.