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Sustainable Pittsburgh

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Straight Talk: An Environmentally Crippling PA Revenue Package & Rationalizing the Severance Tax

Our Commonwealth is in precarious fiscal straits.  Facing upwards of a $2 billion deficit, the Republican-controlled legislature, loath to consider new taxes, but facing the crushing reality of budget imbalance, has, through a Senate budget compromise bill, opened the door to a severance tax on Marcellus shale natural gas development.  The severance tax is projected to raise $100 million.

With an eye to long term solutions, Sustainable Pittsburgh urges the PA legislature to take a slice off the top of severance tax proceeds to create a special fund to invest in the future.  Such a 21st Century Energy Innovation Fund would spur jobs and investment through a severance tax set aside to fuel innovations in renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, carbon mitigation technologies, and retraining of displaced fossil fuel workers for employment readiness in the fast-growing clean energy industry.  Taxing natural gas should correspond with economic stimulus through investment in transition to a more sustainable energy future and its now burgeoning job growth trends.

Aside from this missed opportunity, this severance tax rationalizing recommendation however is dwarfed by immediate and grave concerns heaped within the Senate’s revenue package.  David Hess unpacks the bad news in his informative piece entitled, Nothing In Senate $970 Million Revenue Package For The Environment, Code Bills Littered With Environmental Riders.

“The amendments adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday night to the Tax Code bill — House Bill 542 (Thomas-D-Philadelphia) — includes provisions creating a special Advisory Committee that must approve any air quality general permits for oil and gas operations before they go into effect and directs DEP to set up a third party permit review program for all its permits.

The net impact of the changes would be to emasculate the ability of the Department of Environmental Protection to regulate pollution under any of its programs and sets up significant conflicts with the ability of the agency to continue to administer any of its federal regulatory programs.

The Senate amendments create another private bureaucracy of third-party reviewers and allow a permit applicant to pick the reviewer he wants, including picking a landscape architect to review as hazardous waste permit.  All, of course, with no resources to administer this new private bureaucracy and with no supervision or accountability provisions for the third-party reviewers. . . .

Click Here for all the details.”

The Senate budget package is dialed to take away DEP’s most basic abilities to protect the public through permitting.  Read the details and let the legislature know your thoughts.