Although I am now a retired lobbyist, for years I represented the interests of rural Pennsylvanians to policymakers in the state capitol. Although I respect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, I have always felt this is the area that is the economic heart of Pennsylvania. Cities may have the numbers of people, but rural Pennsylvania has the natural resources — and most important these days, energy.
Rural counties are where we have found an abundance of natural gas that has put Pennsylvania on the national stage and the global map. Pennsylvania is the second highest producer of natural gas in the United States, and as such, contributes to our national security.
Pennsylvania allows the United States to be energy self-reliant and not at the mercy of other nations for this critical commodity. Pennsylvania natural gas is essential to national security.
Over the last decade in Pennsylvania, we have seen the natural gas industry boom provide both state and local economic opportunities. Jobs, economic investment and of course expansion of Pennsylvania’s tax base are all vital parts of rural development, and natural gas has become an economic pillar supporting rural communities and both local and state governmental financial solvency.
The last thing we want to see is the killing of the proverbial golden goose. Levying a new tax on natural gas production on top of corporate taxes and the impact fee may cause energy companies to re-think their economic strategies. Since the severance tax is a tax on production, it creates an incentive to increase natural gas production elsewhere and cut back production here.
A pullback from the commonwealth means less economic development, fewer jobs and a harmful impact on those farmers and other property owners who depend on the income royalties from natural gas provide. Fewer wells being brought on-line also means cutting back impact fees that benefit every county in Pennsylvania — rural and urban — every year.
Since 2012, impact fees have raised almost $2 billion for the commonwealth. In addition to helping counties, the impact fee also supports the Conservation District Fund, PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Boat Commission and others.
As a lobbyist, I never lobbied for the natural gas industry. However, I have lobbied for groups seeking to further the hopes and future of farmers, families and the rural communities. Essential to those aspirations is the continued economic contributions from natural gas.
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When I saw the title, I had to almost laugh. Natural gas tax could hurt? Just come out and say it – it WILL hurt! Pennsylvania has some of the highest taxes in the nation now, second highest gasoline tax, ridiculous property taxes to fund schools that are producing students that can’t write or balance a checkbook, road voted worse in the nation, and yet a governor who wants to raise income tax 45%, implements a $1 a trip toll on many bridges, and tax an industry that has brought so much to both individuals and public infrastructure. Perhaps the very legislators who favor this should examine their own lives, and go back to representing the people rather than their own lush interests!