Guest Blogger: It isn’t easy being green…

And it certainly hasn’t generated any green to date.   We keep hearing about investments in green technology and all of the “green jobs” that will be created, but I don’t see any progress on either front, especially here in Pennsylvania.  What I do see is the Pennsylvania legislature hiding behind the issue of the environment as they raise corporate and energy taxes.   Our esteemed leaders in Harrisburg seem to be ignoring the lessons to be learned by New Jersey’s eight year experiment in passing the costs of government fiscal irresponsibility on to private businesses and corporations:  their cash cows are moving out of state in search of greener pastures.
Suspicious of state Representative Steven Santasiero’s call for a new severance tax on the natural gas already being drilled on state land, I did a little research.   The severance tax is linked to the legislator’s opposition to a proposal to expand the amount of state land to be offered for lease for gas drilling in 2011.[1] Obviously, the state earns revenue from the leasing of their land and expanding the program would generate additional revenues.  Taking the expansion off the table would leave an even wider gap in an already unbalanced budget, and my esteemed representative proposes to fill that gap with an additional tax on gas drilling.
So how much does the commonwealth currently earn on land leases for gas and oil drilling? According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) website, the commonwealth receives at least $2,000 per acre plus an 18% royalty on the resources harvested there.[2] Now Mr. Santasiero’s wants to tax these corporations – Gulf/Chevron, Cabot Oil & Gas, Texaco, Inc., Berea Oil  Gas, Amoco Production Company, Delta Drilling Company, Consolidated Gas Supply – even more on top of the lease amount and the royalties they already pay.  How many times can you go to the same source for more money?
Eventually it won’t make sense for these employers of a large number of Pennsylvanians to do business with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  At that point we will no longer receive lease payments, royalties, or the additional tax proposed by Mr. Santasiero, creating an even wider gap in the fiscal budget and putting more Pennsylvanian’s out of work.
Just three years ago under the State Forest Resource Management Plan 2007 Update, the DCNR recommend a lifting of the “ban” on shallow gas- leasing, along with a revised oil and gas lease.[3] Now Mr. Santasiero wants to stop that plan dead in its tracks by introducing the additional burden of a severance tax on all current and future successful gas drilling.
If you haven’t noticed, Mr. Santasiero, we have enough problems to solve without creating additional barriers to business in the Commonwealth.  You would better serve your constituents by focusing on the development of long term solutions to our fiscal and energy issues – even creating green technology and green jobs if that’s a viable way out – without sacrificing successful programs already in place.
With a burgeoning shortfall and upcoming national and state elections in November 2010, our political hopefuls will say and do just about anything to get elected.  They’ll continue linking the economy with environment in their campaign messages – and a real solution may actually exist in that linking – but don’t be fooled by their vague references to green technology, green jobs, punishing polluters, etc.  They’re going to make decisions about our forests, our natural resources, our economy, our jobs – they have to be able to balance it all or they shouldn’t get the job! 

In addition to being a recent graduate of political science at Rider University, Lisa Hibbs serves as a volunteer for the Bucks County Republican Committee.

[1] Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus Representative Steven J. Santasiero, “Santasiero Urges Governor to Call Off Additional Land Lease for Gas Drilling,” Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus, http://www.pahouse.com/PR/031020410.asp (accessed March 1, 2010). [2] Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bid Notification, “Notice to Bidders: Oil and Gas Lease Sale,” Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/Forestry/gaslease.aspx (accessed March 1, 2010). [3] Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, “State Forest Resource Management Plan (SFRMP) 2007 Update Executive Summary,” Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/Forestry/gaslease.aspx (accessed March 1, 2010).

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