Sunday, October 10, 2010

Will the PA Senate heed Rendell's call tomorrow?

While the House passed a severance tax bill on gas companies prior to their self-imposed October 1st deadline, the Senate failed to follow suit.  There are allegations the Senate let the clock run out in order to stall a decision until after the November 2nd election.  If the GOP gubernatorial candidate, Tom Corbett, wins the election, any such tax will likely be far, far lower than the one passed by the House.  Corbett is a proponent of the gas industry and is against taxing it at all.  The natural gas industry has donated nearly $400,000 to Corbett's campaign; they're hedging their bets, however and have also contributed $75,000 to the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Dan Onorato (see for detailed info).

These donations are in keeping with the overall trend seen in the recent House vote on bill 1155.  According to, the natural gas industry's donations to those in the House who voted *against* the bill were 3.5 times more than those who voted for it.  While both parties have accepted donations from the industry, it's not a generalization in the least to say that Republican candidates overwhelmingly support the gas industry and are working hard to keep any such severance taxes exceedingly low--if not non-existent.

As Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania puts it, “It may not be in the interests of the gas industry, but a Marcellus Shale drilling tax is good for the Commonwealth, good for local communities, and good for the environment.  When legislators take thousands of dollars from the gas industry, then vote to let that industry take our resources for free, we have to wonder whose interests they’re really serving.”

So Rendell is calling for the Senate to meet during tomorrow's scheduled holiday, Columbus Day, to debate the severance tax issue.  What follows is an article by Angela Couloumbis as posted on Oct. 9, 2010 on  Click on the title to read the article in full on or read the opening paragraphs below.

Rendell calls for meeting on the Monday holiday to speed natural-gas tax negotiations

HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell is haranguing legislative leaders to return to work on Columbus Day and discover a route, at long last, to a tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale.

At a news conference Friday, Rendell decried what he called a "preposterous" lack of substantive talks to establish a tax rate. He said he had organized a meeting for 1:30 p.m. Monday - a state holiday - with key legislators and industry representatives in the hope of reaching a deal.

"We made a promise to the people of Pennsylvania," he said, referring to his and legislators' midsummer vow to craft a natural gas tax by Oct. 1. "I intend to honor that promise."

But in a sign that such a tax may be delayed again, Republican leaders said they would gladly meet with the lame-duck Democratic governor Tuesday.

They also differed sharply with Rendell's framing of the issue, branding "absolutely untrue" his claim that they were stalling in hope of having a Republican governor by January.

For nearly two years, the natural-gas industry and its allies have staved off proposals to tax the wave of new drilling in the lucrative Marcellus formation. Over the summer, as part of negotiations on the annual budget, legislators promised to return to the Capitol this fall and enact a tax by Oct. 1.

Rendell said the House - where Democrats rule by a slim majority - held up its end with passage of a tax proposal last week. He said the GOP-controlled Senate had done nothing but "carp and criticize" in an apparent attempt to "run out the clock" in the hope that Republican Tom Corbett will be elected governor Nov. 2.

Corbett has said he is against imposing a tax on gas drilling.

"This is all B.S. right now," the governor said of the Senate's stance.  Continue to read the remainder of the article by clicking here.