The Pennsylvania House planned to vote last night on a revenue package that included taxes on cigarettes and natural gas drilling. But the vote was held up, and members likely won’t weigh in on the measure for at least another week.
Two separate revenue bills are now in front of the House. Both would impose a severance tax on natural gas drilling.
One bill sets a 5 percent rate. The other taxes eight percent of wellheads’ production.
The House will likely vote on one of the two measures in early June, according to a Democratic spokeswoman. Critics of the tax say it would drive drilling companies out of the state.
Johnna Pro, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, disagrees.
"If you look at the states where there is drilling for Marcellus Shale, including those that are predominantly controlled by Republicans, everyone sees this wisdom of taxing this drilling. It’s silly for us not to."
Meantime, a new report funded by drilling companies warns against a severance tax.
Penn State professor Robert Watson, who authored the survey, says geographic factors already make drilling more difficult in Pennsylvania, and that a tax would further discourage companies from setting up shop here.
"If you compare the development of the Marcellus Shale to, let’s say, the shales in Texas, the topography in Texas is a lot easier to develop. To do that same well in Pennsylvania costs a lot more money, simply because of the topography."
Environmental advocacy group PennFuture dismisses the report, saying a survey funded by the drilling industry can’t be trusted.