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House OKs Harper-Amended Marcellus Shale Bill; Ample Funding Directed to Key Environmental Programs

House OKs Harper-Amended Marcellus Shale Bill; Ample Funding Directed to Key Environmental Programs
HARRISBURG – The state House has approved legislation imposing a tax on natural gas extraction in the Commonwealth, directing a substantial portion of the revenue to environmental programs, thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery).
“The growth of the drilling industry will have significant impacts on the Commonwealth both economically and environmentally,” Harper said. “While the new jobs are welcomed, I am pleased that a majority of the House also recognized the importance of investing in our environment to protect our clean air and clean water for future generations.”
In its original form, Senate Bill 1155 did not provide adequate funding for environmental protection and instead sent the vast majority of the tax revenue – a full 80 percent of it in the first year – back to the state’s General Fund. On the other hand, the state’s Environmental Stewardship Fund, also known as Growing Greener, was set to receive just 12 percent of the revenue.
Harper’s amendment, which passed on a 154-45 vote, cut the state’s General Fund share and upped the Environmental Stewardship Fund investment to 32 percent. If enacted, the fund would receive nearly $14.5 million this fiscal year and more than $80 million next year.
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“Farmland and open space preservation, park and trail projects, and watershed protection and restoration are just a few of the initiatives that will benefit from this funding,” Harper said. “Communities across the state, including many here in Montgomery County, have benefitted from these programs in the past and will continue to do so with this additional investment.”
Senate Bill 1155 proposes a 39-cent tax per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas. In addition to the state’s General Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund, revenue generated from the tax will also be distributed to a new Local Government Services Account to address infrastructure needs in communities where drilling is taking place, and to county conservation districts and a number of other state agencies related to drilling and its impacts.
“This bill is not perfect, but it’s much better with the addition of my language directing more of the proceeds to the Environmental Stewardship Fund,” Harper said. “I am hopeful that the Senate will address the problems and remember the environment when they take up the bill.”
Senate Bill 1155 was approved by a vote of 106-92 and now goes back to the Senate for consideration.
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