Letter to the Editor regarding a proposed severance tax on natural gas (York Daily Record)

This letter was originally printed in The York Daily Record on November 15, 2017.

The Pennsylvania budget passed by the General Assembly once more fails the integrity test. Again, they’ve proposed excessive borrowing and the extremely unwise expansion of gambling in our communities. It is very disappointing.

A few independent Republican voices in the State Senate were willing to consider a severance tax on natural gas to help balance the budget. That did not include Senator Scott Wagner or, among others in the York County delegation, Stan Saylor. While the latter has not explained his opposition, we might assume that it parallels that of Wagner who encouraged Saylor to oppose a severance tax in order to advance his own campaign for governor. What a discouraging look at the self-serving “politics as usual” in Harrisburg!

In his editorial which appeared in the York Sunday News on October 29th (“Why a Fracking Tax Would Hurt PA”), Wagner asserted that imposing a severance tax on gas drilling would drive away the industry. That is a ridiculous assumption. Under “Penn’s Woods” (now ours?), sits one of the largest gas fields in the world and they want it. It should provide greater benefit to the citizens of our state, not simply add to the excessive profits of huge energy companies.

The state Constitution’s Sec. 27, the Environmental Rights clause, reads:

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

For emphasis, “for the benefit of all the people.” That means, at minimum, a fair tax on this natural resource.