George: County, Local Govs. Would Reap More Than $800K from Severance Tax

State Rep. Camille "Bud" George. (GantDaily File Photo)

HARRISBURG – State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, said that Clearfield County coffers would realize more than $196,000 and the county’s 51 municipalities would share more than $610,000 under his severance tax legislation now under consideration by the state House of Representatives.

“More than $800,000 would stay in Clearfield County just in the first year alone of the tax on gas drillers,” George said. “County and local governments would decide how best to use the money to address the strains created by the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling boom.”

House Bill 1489 would create a Local Government Services Account from which 40 percent of its revenues would go to municipalities where the gas is extracted, 30 percent to counties where the gas is extracted, 20 percent to municipalities without producing sites but within gas-producing counties, and 10 percent to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

“The formula must be refined so townships with gas wells are ensured more funding than non-host townships,” said George, chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “However, the amounts due the county and each municipality would grow substantially as production increases and the price of natural gas rebounds.”

George said Clearfield County now has almost 300 permitted well sites, and preliminary, first-year revenue projections for townships with producing wells include:

? Huston Twp., $75,432;

? Lawrence Twp., $72,531;

? Brady Twp., $72,531;

? Ferguson Twp., $29,012;

? Bloom Twp., $27,561;

? Bell Twp., $20,308.

“The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania supports the legislation and cites its no-strings-attached approach of letting local officials decide how best to use the money, whether it be for roads and bridges, first-responder training or tax reductions,” George said.  “Under my plan, Harrisburg dedicates the money but doesn’t dictate how it’s used.”

George contrasted HB 1489 with a plan debated in Harrisburg that would direct 80 percent of the proceeds to state government, raid environmental funds that pay for Conservation District waste water specialists and Growing Greener, and saddle the industry with a punitive tax.

“My legislation would replenish Conservation District and Growing Greener funds, not starve them,” George said. “Gas prices would almost have to double before the industry would have to pay more than the rate — 35 cents for every 1,000 cubic feet recovered – that I have proposed.”

George said HB 1489 also would produce a projected $148 million for state coffers in its first year, reducing the pressures to slash funding for programs such as early and basic education funding and libraries.

George said his severance tax language was approved last year by the House only to be scuttled by the state Senate. The Senate action has cost Pennsylvania and county and local governments more than $61 million, and an additional $11,000 every hour.

“In a matter of weeks, Senate leadership has gone from saying it didn’t see a road map for an extraction tax to saying an extraction tax is an opportunity to do some very good things for the environment,” George said. “It’s not too late to do the right thing for Pennsylvania, and the House has had the road map that I hope the Senate is now following.”

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