Corbett Softens Stance on Marcellus Fees
By Nicole Houck, Contributing Writer
Governor Corbett has made it very clear to Pennsylvanians that he does not support a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drilling. He also adamantly stated that he would oppose any tax increases or introduction of new taxes. However, Corbett’s tune seems to be changing, as he is saying that he may be willing to support a local impact tax on gas drilling in the Marcellus region.
Corbett said on Wednesday that he would entertain proposals that allow for local governments to impose fees. He was very specific about the stipulations that would have to be met before he would feel comfortable entertaining such a proposal. First, the fee could not be called a tax, and it would have to be implemented at a local level. Money collected from the fee would have to go directly into the local community, and not back into the state’s general fund. The fee would be used to repair any problems or damages caused by the drilling. Corbett also added that the discussion of impact needs to be addressed, but would ultimately fall to the Marcellus Shale Commission.
“I understand there is an impact on the local communities, and I believe that in some way, shape or form we need to address that impact. Many of the companies are already doing that. Many of the companies are out there rebuilding the roads. And they’re doing it, from what I’m hearing, anecdotally, better than the local communities or PennDOT would rebuild the roads. That would be one consideration, of how that’s done through the private sector,” Corbett said in an interview.
It’s an interesting shift for the Gov, who has taken a hard rhetorical line on taxing Marcellus shale but had never ruled out an impact fee. It’s also a practical one. Even Corbett’s fellow Republicans are uneasy with some of his budget’s proposed cuts, and giving the gas drillers a free ride at the expense of, say local schools, may not be politically tenable for swing-district legislators.