Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What the Frack? - Marcellus Shale Tax

Legislation has been passed in PA for impact fees regarding the Marcellus Shale. In case you've been under a rock (made of shale, perhaps...?) Marcellus Shale is a giant natural gas reserve underneath the Appalachian Mountains, covered by PA and NY, as well as WV and MD. Coincidentally, it's also covered by some of these states most pristine trout fisheries.

As you can imagine, when trout streams go up against gas drilling, they lose. Unforutnately, that's not changing.

But what is changing is that now at least our state is getting reimbursed for the raping of our state. Prior to this, the gas companies have paid taxes, but in the way that most large corporations pay taxes (i.e. they don't pay taxes.) With this legislation, the taxes and fees will bring in almost $400 million in the first two years.

Oddly enough this legislation is spearheaded by the Governor Tim Corbett. It's odd because he said last year that if any legislation crossed his desk to tax the gas companies, he'd veto it. I guess tanking in approval does get some work done.....

Another part of the legislation is that the gas companies now have to make public the chemicals they use in fracking. (Fracking is when these companies use a chemical soup and shoot it down a drilled hole to crack through the shale to get to the natural gas. They then pump the chemicals out of the hole and responsibly put it in tanks and cart it off to where ever to be treated; not ever leaking into the streams and rivers. Scouts honor.) Prior to this, the chemicals were reported to the state but kept private.

This is good; independent agencies can now better appraise their effect on the environment and how to treat the areas where spills have occured. I mean, they didn't occur, but if they did, they would know how to fix it.

PA has the most streams per capita out of every state in the US. That's a lot of fishing to be done. But many of these stream miles are also within the Marcellus Shale area. History has shone that when the environment stands in the way of big business, i.e. Energy, it will lose. Even if drilling would stop today, our streams would never be the same.

I haven't been able to find what all of the fees and taxes are going towards. In our cash strapped state, there are going to be more hands to fill and pennies to fill it. I hope that one of our elected officials had the brains to set a reserve aside so that as our natural areas are effected by this, we can take steps to minimize the impact. There was talk of this last year when the issue of taxes was raised.

I'd hate to see many generations of our children not have the streams and woodlands that we enjoy today just to that a few generations can have a finite amount of power.

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