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
"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
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
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
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.