Thursday, April 30, 2009

Marcellus Water is the Worst Water on the Planet!

Severance Tax as Magic Wand
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) released a report this week advocating for a severance tax on natural resource extraction, such as the proposed tax by Governor Rendell on natural gas. The report, "Responsible Growth: Protecting the Public Interest with a Natural Gas Severance Tax," examines the potential costs of increased natural gas drilling on taxpayers and the environment, how severance taxes are structured in other states, and what lessons Pennsylvania can learn from them. According to the report, a well-structured severance tax on natural gas production will protect Pennsylvania taxpayers from shouldering the public costs that come with increased drilling.

"Natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale has substantial risks and substantial costs that have not yet been fully explored in the rush to drill," said Sharon Ward, Director of the non-partisan policy research center. "A severance tax is a well-tested mechanism to shift these costs back to producers, where they belong."

Natural gas drilling has an unavoidable impact on the environment, and the waste water generated during the drilling process in the Marcellus Shale poses particular concerns. According to a marketing manager at GE Water & Processes Technologies, which develops filtering technologies used to clean the water, "the Marcellus water is the worst water on the planet."

Even with adequate environmental monitoring, increased drilling in the Marcellus Shale could cause water contamination, soil erosion, disturbance to natural environments, and noise and air pollution, said Michael Wood, the Center's Research Director and lead author of the report.

Now Here Comes the Fuzzy Logic:

A severance tax is one way to ensure that taxpayers aren't asked to pay those environmental costs, the report found. It also will compensate Pennsylvanians for the removal of a non-renewable resource and offset the costs of new roads and bridges, public safety, building, and emergency response needs that accompany growth in natural gas drilling.

(Did anyone ask Pennsylvanians if they prefer a severance tax offsetting these costs to preserving the natural state of our environment in such ways as render the severance tax unnecessary?)

"What will our great grandchildren be left with when the last gas well is exhausted? A severance tax reinvested in Pennsylvania's natural resources and communities will help balance the damages caused by drilling operations and pipelines," said Andy Loza, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.

Can severance tax money generate replacement water? Can it clean the VOCs and particulate matter out of the air? Exhaust from the huge number of diesel trucks, dust from construction activity, emissions from wells that will be flared (either intentionally or accidentally), as well as the evaporation of hazardous materials in waste pits, could lead to a profound deterioration of Pennsylvania's air quality. The use and emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in fracking fluids could have a profound impact on all Pennsylvania's ecosystems. Predetermining remediation instead of protecting existing healthy conditions bespeaks acts complicit in their destruction.



  1. Splash- This is an excellent post. I can't help but think of the nice sounding phrases, "responsible drilling" and "clean coal." There really isn't any such thing. This also reminds me of nuclear weapons. If there were a nuclear holocaust, would survivors have a liveable world in which to exist? There is a point of destruction beyond which the planet may not be able to sustain life. A severance tax would help shoulder the expenses brought on by the gas industry, and therefore, should be levied. However, the whole process of drilling everywhere will render the environment so weak that all the money in the world will not be able to repair it.

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