PEC Joins Call on Environmental Funding

A coalition of environmental, conservation, and sportsmen groups including the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, as well as local government officials, today announced their support for directing a portion of any extraction tax on natural gas to restoration and habitat programs and to local governments impacted drilling operations.

As part of the campaign, the coalition unveiled a recent statewide poll which showed that the majority of Pennsylvanians support taxing natural gas drilling, and nearly 9 out of 10 want a portion of the tax revenue used to protect Pennsylvania’s land, water, and wildlife.  The statewide poll was conducted from February 28 – March 3, 2009 by the bipartisan polling team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R).

Pennsylvania sits atop one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world – the Marcellus shale formation. New drilling technology means that drillers are just now starting to tap into this resource. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a record 7,792 drilling permits in 2008 (up from roughly 2,000 in 1999).

Most states with natural gas resources tax the extraction of the gas. Governor Rendell has proposed a tax on the extraction of natural gas identical to the one that has been in place in West Virginia since 1987.  This tax is projected to initially raise more than $100 million a year, rising to more than $630 million annually by 2014.

Natural gas extraction imposes significant costs on communities and the environment: pipelines, drilling pads and wastewater storage pits that alter landscapes and fragment wildlife habitat; heavy rigs damaging roads; billions of gallons of water taken from streams, resulting in voluminous wastewater treatment needs.

Some of the money raised from a natural gas extraction tax should be used to offset and restore these impacts, and could be used to further invest in watershed restoration and protection, habitat conservation, public access to outdoor recreation, and conservation of open space and farmland.  This can be accomplished by directing a portion of the tax to the Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener) as well as to Pennsylvania’s natural resource commissions for habitat improvement and public access purposes.