Time having a friend in Pennsylvania!

It may be hard for some to believe that Pennsylvania is the only state in the Union that does not charge Marcellus Gas extractors an extract tax on the gas they take from our land. For anyone who has worked on environmental justice issues in this state longer than five minutes however, it’s not that hard to believe at all. I have long upheld the belief that if hazardous waste follows the path of least resistance, all roads lead to Pennsylvania. Nice to know the Gas industry has a friend in Pennsylvania too!

Former Governor Ridge was a great supporter of any industry willing and wishing to dump their toxics here. Landfills bring in money! Incinerators bring in even more. Both mean jobs! Mr. Ridge now works for the shale industry and not surprisingly is one the industries biggest promoters and our new Governor is following right in his footsteps.

Allowing for the common belief (not necessarily the truth), that state after state is going broke, one would think that any new sources of revenue the Governor could come up with would make him a hero around here. It is reported that Pennsylvania is facing a four billion dollar budget deficit this year alone. Thus, prompting the recent cutting back of state education allowances, the firing of teachers for lack of money and the raising of tuitions to cover costs. So when the gas industry itself announced it would be open to a reasonable tax on what they are taking for free, the Governors refusal to support pursuing the issue, has taken many by surprise.

That particular new source of revenue from the Marcellus gas drilling operations in the state of Pennsylvania including wells in our own publicly held state parks could have been a windfall of sorts for the state budgets. But the governor in his campaign for election, said, no new taxes. And a man of his word he is turning out to be. Doubtful anyone thought that meant no new taxes on corporations making a killing off of the state; very doubtful indeed.

And to add insult to injury the Governor has just announced that starting now, and I mean, now, like today, any field inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection, who find problems with any Marcellus drilling operations in the commonwealth must first get the approval of their bosses in Harrisburg, before issuing the driller a violation. The move is being called by the heads of the state Department Environmental Protection a plan to standardize the inspection process for everyone.

Environmentalists see it a bit differently. If field inspectors must have every decision they make second guessed and approved by bosses in Harrisburg, truly violations will cease to be noted! Tried to call Harrisburg lately? For those who live off of well water in rural Pennsylvania this could prove disastrous. In essence the new regulations hamstring the inspection process to a point where it is no longer going to be an effective deterrent to keeping the public safe from these operations!

By the way did I mention that the Marcellus Shale industry gave $800,000 dollars in donations to support the Governors election campaign? And rightly so they helped the guy who lost too! Maybe we can get the industry to hire a few teachers, fix a few school roofs, and help us pave a bridge or two. After all having a friend in Pennsylvania, means being a friend to!


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