Roads, sewer systems, human services, hotels and more are taking on excessive wear and tear in some Pennsylvania counties and cities because of the ever expanding drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
There is no straightforward method for one to get its arms around the cost, as Douglas Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania put it, “there are so many indirect, (and direct), costs its just not quantifiable.”
Everything the industry touches seemingly creates an unfunded, financial burden. In an interview with Rock The Capital, Hill pointed out that it goes well beyond two-ton trucks tearing up roads. More out of state employees are using human service programs, and there are growing indirect costs to police, fire, emergency management, and even hotels. Hill says long-term stays at hotels, by out of state workers, equals a reduction in tax.
Hill was among several people across the Commonwealth that testified at a Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing on Tuesday in Harrisburg. Governor Tom Corbett has vowed not to support a severance tax on gas drilling, making Pennsylvania now the only natural gas industry state without one.
Senator Edwin Erickson,(R-26th), chairman of the committee, is well aware of growing costs to communities and cities across the Commonwealth, but he wanted to hear it first hand.
The legislature must find another way around a severance to arrive at the same place; a mechanism to tax the gas industry. Hill said. And, drillers should be,”treated like any other industry in the state.” In Hill’s mind, “a tax could be based on the value of production,” and as long as it is equitable, with most of the money going back to counties and municipalities, that would make for a common-sense approach.
Drilling has also led to incalculable costs to the environment. Ellen Ferretti with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council also testified. Ferretti says she is focused on comprehensive planning to accommodate future drilling, not associated costs, but Ferretti said, “most of the companies, not all, are very cooperative with municipal officials, you will hear that all time. They are going in and trying to fix the roads when they can. They realize their activity has presented an unusual burden, so, there is a whole lot of cooperation going on.”
(To hear audio clips from that hearing click on Rock The Capital.)
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