Your view: Don’t let severance tax distract from environmental issues

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Gov. Tom Wolf has once again proposed a common sense severance tax on natural gas operations in Pennsylvania. Bill O’Boyle’s recent coverage spells out many of the benefits of taxing energy companies based on how much natural gas they produce.

The bill has bipartisan support, and Pennsylvania remains the only major natural gas-producing state that doesn’t have a similar tax on production. It could lead to billions of dollars in revenue for initiatives throughout the Commonwealth.

A progressive tax on energy companies for the natural gas they produce – using the natural resources of our state – makes sense and is a necessary step for Pennsylvania.

But make no mistake – this is not an environmental issue. This is a revenue issue.

The severance tax would be an important revenue tool for our state, but it should not overshadow or distract from key environmental issues facing Pennsylvania.

As Harrisburg debates a severance tax, essential regulations curbing dangerous methane emissions at natural gas sites remain unrealized. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas and is emitted alongside other pollutants that have been linked to a host of health issues from low birth weight to asthma to heart disease. As pro-industry groups like the Marcellus Shale Coalition push to kill the severance tax and protect energy conglomerates’ bottom lines, the DEP is critically underfunded. Officials say it is “mathematically impossible” for the agency to keep up with required safe drinking water inspections.

As the debate over a severance tax heats up, Pennsylvania citizens and lawmakers cannot confuse the energy industry’s responsibility to pay its fair share in taxes with its responsibility to protect the air and water of our commonwealth and the health of our families and communities.

Joseph O. Minott

Executive director andchief counsel

Clean Air Council

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