The Citizens’ Voice chose a holiday weekend Saturday to squeak out its opinion that: Drilling’s OK, but commonwealth must be protected. Below is their piece followed by my letter to them.
Development of the Marcellus Shale gas formation has followed lines that generally have applied to resource extraction throughout the nation’s history.
There are substantial economic benefits and substantial environmental costs. Folks doing the actual extraction work hard and play hard, bolstering the local economy but not always in accordance with local cultural and behavioral standards. Some people profit; some people suffer losses through affected property values. The government plays catch-up because the industry drives the market and the technology.
All of that has played out in the early days of the Marcellus Shale Development. Yet there also is a broad, sensible and achievable consensus that the gas can be extracted in a way that boosts the economy without devastating the environment.
The problem is that the political debate, as political debates often are, has been driven from the ends of the spectrum rather than the middle.
As a bill in Harrisburg to establish an 8 percent “severance” tax on gas extraction has begun to move, for example, anti-tax Republicans have claimed that it would stifle further development of the Marcellus Shale field. It’s a remarkable assertion, because similar taxes just about everywhere that gas drillers operate have done nothing of the kind. Rather, those taxes are considered by the industry as part of the cost of doing business.
The plan is for an 80-20 split of the proceeds among the state government and affected local governments, which could use the money for regulatory enforcement and to mitigate the impact on roads on other infrastructure.
In Harrisburg this week, state police contended that crime has increased in drilling areas, a downside to the boom that few had anticipated. That requires continued vigilance, and also is a good argument for the severance tax, part of which could be directed to law enforcement in affected areas. It also should be an incentive to expedite the training of more local workers for jobs in the expanding industry.
Industry estimates indicate that gas extraction could be a major industry across much of Pennsylvania for as long as a century. Lawmakers should move now to ensure that the commonwealth at large benefits from the boom, and that the environmental and social costs are mitigated.
Regarding your May 29 editorial titled “Drilling’s OK, but commonwealth must be protected”: You conclude by stating “Lawmakers should move now to ensure that the commonwealth at large benefits from the boom, and that the environmental and social costs are mitigated.”
To mitigate means to lessen. I guess more crime is OK, just not too much? Dead aquifers are OK, just not too many? You also claim there is a “broad” consensus that this gas extraction can be done without “devastating the environment”. Just where is this broad consensus? In the clubhouse?