The Corbett Plan: Billions in Costs for Pennsylvania Taxpayers

GOP nominee’s major donors will reap the rewards while taxpayers are left to clean up the mess

HARRISBURG: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato said today that Harrisburg Republican Tom Corbett is protecting big oil and gas corporations at the expense of the water Pennsylvanians drink and the safety of the state’s families.

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“The Marcellus shale presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Pennsylvania – but it must be done right,” said Onorato. “My plan will create jobs for Pennsylvanians, enable the industry to grow and protect the environment.

“Tom Corbett wants taxpayers to foot the bill for protecting the environment, while I want the drillers to pay for it. He has made clear that his single goal is to prevent the oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of millions of dollars a year drilling in Pennsylvania from paying their fair share. That’s the difference between us.”

Onorato has issued a detailed policy paper calling for the successful and safe development of Marcellus shale resources in order to create jobs for Pennsylvanians, foster economic development and protect the environment. His plan includes environmental safeguards and a workforce development strategy to ensure that Pennsylvanians are ready for Marcellus shale-related employment.

Onorato backs a competitive severance tax on Marcellus shale drilling – just like all other major gas-producing states – and he would use the proceeds to fund enforcement by the Department of Environmental Protection, to help local communities address the impact of drilling on their roads and other services, and to pay for the renewal of Growing Greener – the state’s major environmental conservation and preservation programs.

A May report by Common Cause Pennsylvania revealed that Corbett is the #1 Pennsylvania recipient of contributions from the gas industry over the last decade. The oil and gas industry also helped save Corbett’s political career during his initial tight race for Attorney General in 2004. At the time, Corbett refused to reveal the source of nearly a half-million dollars funneled through the Republican State Leadership Committee, but campaign finance filings later made clear that the bulk of it was from the CEO of an Oklahoma oil-and-gas company.

Corbett opposes a severance tax, so that the oil and gas industry can evade its responsibility to taxpayers and force residents and other businesses to bear the costs of drilling. Even Corbett’s allies in the Senate Republican caucus have agreed to enact a severance tax, putting Corbett in the extreme wing of his party.

“Tom Corbett is taking an extreme stance against Pennsylvania taxpayers,” Onorato said. “He opposes policies that even the State Republicans and all of the major gas-producing states already support, just to help his major campaign contributors.”

Corbett has also called for “voluntary drilling standards” [Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 6/23/2010] based on “consensus” with the industry [Corbett public statement, 6/23/2010] – which would likely mean environmental regulations are even weaker than they are today.

And Corbett is against limits on new drilling in State Forests. [Associated Press, 5/12/2010]

“I will ensure that the Marcellus shale leads to new jobs for Pennsylvanians at the same time as we protect our environment, while Tom Corbett only cares about one side: the industry’s side,” said Onorato. “Tom Corbett is saying ‘no’ to oversight, ‘no’ to help for local communities and ‘no’ to environmental protection.”

Corbett has consistently chosen sides against average Pennsylvanians. His repeated comments that “the jobs are there” but unemployed Pennsylvanians would rather just “sit there” than go back to work has received broad criticism.

“Dan Onorato has a record of helping businesses grow while supporting good-paying private-sector jobs for workers,” said Onorato Communications Director Brian Herman. “Dan has proposed making business taxes more competitive and making the state more business-friendly, which he knows will make the state attractive for companies and for workers. Tom Corbett doesn’t have any experience turning around the economy – and it shows.”

A life-long Pennsylvanian, Dan Onorato was raised in a working class neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He graduated college from Penn State and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Onorato has served as Allegheny County Executive since 2004 and was unopposed for re-election in 2007.  Prior to being elected County Executive, Onorato served as Allegheny County Controller and a Pittsburgh City Councilman.  Dan and his wife Shelly reside in the Brighton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh with their three children.

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