State Rep. Boyle Supports Natural Gas Extraction Tax
Brendan Boyle explained the issues surrounding the Marcellus Shale resource to the Rotary Club of Huntingdon Valley/Southampton during a meeting at Vereinigung Erzgebirge Club in Warminster.
Despite promises by Governor Tom Corbett to veto any legislation that taxes companies extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, State Representative Brendan Boyle believes that the tax will happen in the near future.
Boyle discussed a few of the obstacles to getting the legislation passed Wednesday evening during a presentation for members of the Rotary Club of Huntingdon Valley/Southampton at their weekly meeting at Vereinigung Erzgebirge Club in Warminster.
"There are about 5 or 6 different bills in house committees for this session," sais Boyle. "The problem is that the state senate won't look at any of them. I think once we get past the senate, we would have the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor's veto."
The Marcellus Shale gets its name from a small village in New York where a notable rock formation is visible. The shale stretches into northern and western Pennsylvania, parts of Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia. It contains the largest natural gas deposit in North America, measured between 250 to 500 trillion cubic feet, enough to serve the country's natural gas needs for more than 10 years.
Of the 15 major natural gas producing states, Pennsylvania is the only one that does not charge an extraction tax on drilling companies. Governor Corbett defended his refusal by telling reporters he wants to fully review the 137-page report completed in July by the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Boyle suggested the fact that Corbett received almost $1 million in campaign contributions from the natural gas drilling industry may also be a factor.
Boyle, a democrat who represents the 170th district, with neighborhoods in northeast Philadelphia and parts of Montgomery County, including Huntingdon Valley, describes himself as a middle of the road legislator who doesn't want to overtax or undertax the extraction.
"The average of the other 14 states is about 5 percent, which I think is a good number," said Boyle. "It's also close to West Virginia's tax. That would generate about $400 million for this year, and increase each year as more wells are added."
While the different bills have different ways to divide up the tax revenue, Boyle would like to see the money allocated into three funds:
1.) One-third given to counties and regions with infrastructures directly affected by the drilling practices, i.e. roads and bridges damaged by heavy equipment.
2.) One-third to increase the property tax relief fund.
3.) One-third to replenish Pennsylvania's Environmental Stewarship Fund.
The process for extracting the natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has come under great scrutiny by environmental groups. Fracking uses a combination of water, sand and chemicals that are injected through a high pressure system into a well, usually about 8,000 feet deep. The mixture creates cracks or fissures into the rock and releases the natural gas.
Leaks in the well system can cause the chemicals or the natural gas to seep into water wells or groundwater. The dangers have been captured on film by filmmaker Josh Fox for his Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland, which contains a famous scene where a homeowner turns on his faucet, holds a lighter to the running water and watches as the liquid ignites.
Boyle credits the natural gas drilling industry for keeping the state's unemployment numbers below the national average and is in favor of the continued drilling, but would like to see stronger regulations that will monitor the practices and hopefully prevent harmful seepage into the Delaware River.