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Saturday, November 19, 2011

State Senator Vincent J. Hughes Calls Senate Bill 1100 "A Missed Opportunity"

I strongly opposed the Republican Marcellus Shale plan that was approved by the Senate on November 15. The shale tax plan will make Pennsylvania’s rate the 5th lowest effective rate in the country. Pennsylvania has one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the country and as a result of the Senate’s actions today, it will have one of the lowest extraction tax rates in the nation.

This is a missed opportunity that we may never happen again.

This Republican plan for Marcellus Shale falls woefully short. It is short on generating revenues, providing environmental protections and protecting local communities. It gives a pass to the most lucrative industry in the world and fails to live up to our expectations of what a reasonable plan should look like. During floor debate, I offered an amendment that would have generated more than $560 million in additional revenues from shale drillers and the amendment was voted down by a 24-25 vote.

While we should do what we can to help this promising industry flourish, the economic boost that comes from shale should not mean that we relinquish our responsibility to our citizens, environment, local communities and future generations. If we fail to do our jobs now and protect the environment, we run the risk of future generations experiencing the same type of mess that we inherited from the coal industry.

Democrats offered amendments to provide more funding for environmental protection and remove provisions that preempt local zoning. These were rejected by Senate Republicans. We must ensure that this economic opportunity – this Pennsylvania resource – is managed safely and responsibly. We must generate real dollars and generate real protections for our citizens and our environment.

Senate Republicans also rejected amendments that would have:

• Provided a higher impact fee of $75,000 per well in the first year, raising to $150 million in 2011, $260 million in 2012, $380 million in 2013 and $491 million in 2014;

• Improved setback requirements to measure distances from the edge of the well pad, rather than from the well head;

• Totally preserved local zoning power as it relates to natural gas drilling so that no state agency could override the power to provide for appropriate placement of wells.

The Marcellus Shale plan should do three things: protect Pennsylvania’s environment and its people; generate adequate revenue; and give local government the ability to protect their communities. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

Thank you,

Vincent J. Hughes
State Senator - 7th District
Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair

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