Pennsylvania legislators should think long and hard about making taxpayers spend even more money on incentives for natural gas drillers. Drilling companies are making money hand over fist tapping into Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale deposit. Public money shouldn’t be necessary.
Still, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and legislators have approved a variety of measures that use tax dollars to make doing business here even easier and more lucrative to drillers. One includes using tax dollars to build a pipeline that will link vaccine company Sanofi Pasteur; another, subsidizing a processing project by plastics maker Braskem S.A. of Brazil. Corbett also supports buying scores of compressed natural gas vehicles and building about a dozen fueling stations.
About $30 million is funding such projects, but only a fifth of that amount is coming from a $200 million-a-year drilling fee on the industry. Meanwhile, state officials may tap taxpayers for as much as $1 billion over 25 years to encourage Royal Dutch Shell PLC to build a petrochemical refinery near Pittsburgh.
Industry advocates argue that public investment boosts local economies by favoring a Pennsylvania industry and helps make the nation less dependent on fuel from abroad. The latter certainly is true. But well-heeled energy companies don’t need public dollars to locate or enhance operations in Pennsylvania.
The Corbett administration has cut funding to public schools and universities and to a wide swath of social welfare programs that help support individual Pennsylvanians. Yet he’s enthusiastically throwing more public money at an already thriving industry. Subsidizing industry isn’t necessarily wrong, and certainly the jobs and taxes that industries pay are good for the economy. But we’re in lean times, and now these companies are depending on the government, too.
Why does Corbett disdain assistance to Pennsylvania’s most needy citizens, yet embrace corporate welfare?
Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize the the gas drilling companies. Let the free market work.