Lieutenant governor candidate favors severance tax on Marcellus production
HARRISBURG - Levying a state severance tax on Marcellus gas production is a way to restore Pennsylvania's full potential, the Democratic candidate for the No. 2 executive office said Monday.
"It's baffling this hasn't been done already," said Sen. Mike Stack, D-5, Philadelphia; the lieutenant governor nominee, at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon.
Severance tax revenue could help fund education, infrastructure and environmental protection and provide an alternative to using one-time revenue sources to support the state budget, Stack said.
He suggested that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett made an easy political decision to oppose a severance tax because of his ties with gas companies.
Corbett has repeatedly criticized a severance tax and instead enacted an impact fee on natural gas drillers in 2012. During the recent state budget debate, the governor said he would consider new taxes if lawmakers enacted laws to curb public pension costs.
GOP legislative leaders steered through a budget that relies on revenue transfers from special state funds and new underground gas drilling in state parks and forests but doesn't hike taxes. Corbett signed the $29 billion budget after vetoing nearly $100 million from it.
Stack recently proposed legislation for a severance tax that would also create a Marcellus Shale ombudsman office to investigate drilling complaints from landowners and local communities.
Stack's bill would ban the dumping of gas well wastewater that isn't fully treated in open pits and streams, require gas drillers to pay twice the property value if they contaminate a landowner's private water well and set high impact fees for gas wells drilled in state parks and forests.
Other bill provisions provide for using best technology on compressor engines to cut air emissions, inspecting gas drilling equipment to prevent methane and gas leaks and putting sharp limits on flaring of natural gas at wells.