From when I first heard of the proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction in PA, I had some serious reservations. I still do. I don't think the proposed rate is high enough, and I have almost zero confidence the money will be allocated correctly or wisely.
When I opened my Inbox this morning, I had the following thought-provoking message from a lady named Leslie. I could not have done a better job myself, so without further delay:
To those who think it is a good idea to press for the passing of SB 1155, please consider the following...
...what will life in PA be like when state, regional and local governments, the appointed and the elected, live off the fruits of the gas industry? When these officials depend on high industry production to swell budgets and cash their paychecks? Will they examine the industry as well? Listen well to the issues and pass good, protective regulations if they are difficult for the industry? Will they listen better and pass safeguards for the "little guy" if it means impeding industry progress? Will they engage in proper impact studies? Adjust the cart-before-the-horse mentality? Will forced pooling and zoning exemptions seem quite as bad when they provide more areas to drill on, more revenue opportunity? Or, might govt find a way to see things differently since their budgets and paychecks depend on it? Might we begin to hear "well.. if you do that, it will impede production, cut tax revenue, you know..."
...what will life in PA be like when the environmental agencies are also on the gas payroll. Will they become more willing to look problems in the eye and call it out, loud and strong? Will they seek out ways to protect the environment that may limit the industry -- which would in turn curtail their operational budgets? Or will attempts at seeming environmentally sound be good enough, will compromises that keep the gas and cash flowing be sufficient? Will they look that paycheck in the eye and say "no"?
.. if you think that a moratorium or a slow-down-and-do-it-right is compatible with this severance tax, I suggest you think again. That money is already spent, now it has to be earned -- and that means "drill baby drill."
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it...
Thank you, Leslie. You've renewed my hope that there are more than a few folks out there that can think outside the box - beyond the $ sign - and truly, truly get it.