Hold our noses as we await new Marcellus law and tax ... oops, fee
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Not that it matters, but we intensely dislike some provisions of the Marcellus Shale/natural gas regulation/tax ... oops, fee ... bill passed last week by the Pennsylvania Legislature.
It doesn't much matter what we say at this date, because Republicans who control the Senate, the House and the governor's office got together in secret to put together positions that are compromises, not between legislators, but between Republican party leaders.
So if voters decide that the bill stinks when it becomes law later this week, Republicans ought to be ousted from the state Legislature.
We do believe that the proposed bill is less bad than no bill at all, in that it offers some relief from costs associated with deep well drilling, and brings in some money, and clarifies what drillers can and can't do on a statewide basis.
But the Legislature clearly caved in to drilling companies by allowing them to continue to keep secret the chemicals and substances they use in the fluids that cause rocks to be fractured, freeing up gas.
The drilling companies might own the oil, gas and mineral rights, but they do not own the land itself. We do. The state of Pennsylvania grants titles to surface and subsurface areas - so, in the last analysis, the state owns the land and we the people own the state.
It is unconscionable to allow anyone to stuff crap down holes and not say what that crap is.
Yet that's what will be allowed under the guise of "proprietary" information.
Hogwash. In Pennsylvania, drillers should either disclose - or go away. It's that simple.
But, no. Our legislative leaders don't see things that way. So we can only hope that none of the substances used in "proprietary" hydraulic fracturing are cancer-causing.
We're also less than thrilled with the compromises between local control - allowing zoning with respect to lighting, noise and structures - and state-level control - wells allowed within 300 feet of some buildings. We're not sure how this will play out in practice or in the courts, but it does represent a compromise, and that means nobody gets everything that might be wished for.
We can hope that lawmakers or the governor see the need to revisit the "proprietary substances" risk, and eventually move away from the cumbersome county-level "impact fees" and toward a realistic statewide severance tax.
Sometimes, living in a democratic republic is messy and not very agreeable.
This is one of those times.
- Denny Bonavita
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