Flanked by environmentalists who catcalled him to do more, Gov. Ed Rendell signed an executive order that prohibits the leasing of state forests for Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling.
Yesterday’s ceremony in Penn Treaty Park took on a distinctly political feel. Naming names, Rendell railed against state Senate Republicans for stalling action on a severance tax which Rendell declared “clearly is dead” last week. He broke down various tax-level proposals that went unheeded, noting that Pennsylvania is the only natural-gas-rich state without such a tax.
“The fight is not over. We’ve protected what private land we can,” said Rendell who, when chided by environmental activists calling for a statewide drilling ban, added, “Even if I was for a statewide ban, which I’m not because of the economic upside, there are not enough votes in the House and Senate to get it passed.”
Opponents say a tax would stifle economic benefits by chasing prospective drillers away; supporters say drilling companies should contribute to covering environmental, infrastructure and other costs. The non-partisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates more than $100 million in revenues have been lost since Oct. 1, 2009 because a tax isn’t in place.
“It’s selfish of us to use up all of the natural resources we have for short-term gain,” said state Rep. Greg Vitali of Delaware County. “We want to raise revenues the right way.”
The moratorium has a limited effect, though. In the first nine months of the year, more than 2,300 drilling permits were issued.