A group of activists gathered outside the Pittsburgh offices of energy company EQT today, to argue that a Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction tax is needed in Pennsylvania.
About thirty protesters toted homemade signs on the steps of EQT Plaza downtown, as the EQT Board of Directors met inside. The activists say rather than forcing the public to absorb proposed budget cuts in education and environmental protection, state government should pass a tax on the extraction of shale natural gas.
Despite numerous bills in the House and Senate, every attempt to pass such a severance tax has failed. As an alternative, Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati's "impact fee" proposal would put a $10,000 base fee on each gas well, which would rise with the well's production.
But Rachel Filippini, director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution, says the impact fee proposal is flawed because it only addresses the effects of drilling in counties and municipalities where wells are located.
"Water and air pollution doesn't just stay at the well site, doesn't just stay in those municipalities. In fact, some air pollutants don't even form until they're up in the atmosphere and they've traveled many miles. And so you need to have a severance tax that's going to protect all communities, because air and water do move."
Steve Hvozdovich of Clean Water Action says a severance tax would produce more revenue than an impact fee, which could be used for environmental programs.
Governor Tom Corbett is opposed to a severance tax, but he has said he would consider an impact fee.