Will your taxes fund the fracking industry?

CONSTANCE CUMMINGS

Westfield

If you live near one of Tioga County’s 160-plus active fracking wells, here is how the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection oversees your health and safety:

5 Reviews well permit applications.

5 Keeps track of fracking well locations.

5 Evaluates compliance of drilling sites with rules.

5 Investigates complaints.

5 Plugs over 20,000 Pennsylvania orphaned and abandoned wells and leaking gathering lines.

The cost to accomplish this increases annually due to the additional well inventory and development activity, despite cutting 36 of 226 employees and operating costs by 38 percent. Well permit fees of $5,000 currently leave a $6.3 million-dollar shortfall. This deficit has been covered by the Well Plugging Fund reserves, which will be gone by FY 2019-2020. Current well permit fees would force an elimination of 70 staff, when there is already insufficient staff to protect the public health and safety.

On June 14, 2018, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board proposed a $12,500 fracking well permit fee to cover the cost of meeting its statutory obligations.

Pennsylvania is the ONLY state where industry is NOT charged a fee for the volume of gas extracted, so its well permit fees must be higher.

On Aug. 10, 2018, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an oil and gas industry group, wrote a 12-page comment letter complaining about the cost of the proposed fee increase, and proposing instead to use public money to cover the costs of the industry’s ongoing development.

That same day, 32 Pennsylvania representatives, including interim state Rep. Clinton Owlett, sent a letter mirroring the one from industry, also protesting the proposed fee increase, and suggesting the use of tax dollars to police the industry.

On Nov. 6, your vote for Pennsylvania state representative will help decide whether your money will be used to increase the oil and gas industry’s profits.

COMMENTS