Pennsylvania legislators failing to make headway on Marcellus tax

Opponents of drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale natural gas fields stage a protest in the Capitol Rotunda.
Opponents of drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale natural gas fields stage a protest in the Capitol Rotunda.
Posted: September 22, 2010

HARRISBURG - Marcellus Shale has dominated discussion under the Capitol dome this week, but with no action to show for it as the legislative session draws to a close in two weeks.

Environmental groups held a rally Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda to support a Marcellus Shale natural gas tax that would pump millions of dollars into recession-depleted state and local coffers.

Earlier in the day, two floors above the Rotunda, House Republicans unveiled a plan to harness the power of natural gas in one of the largest reserves in North America by converting the state's 16,000-vehicle fleet and private fleets to the fuel.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, senior Rendell administration officials and legislative leaders continued discussions aimed at closing a deal on shale-tax legislation ahead of the agreed-upon deadline of Oct. 1.

"We are hopeful the legislature will live up to their commitment," said Gov. Rendell's spokesman, Gary Tuma.

Still at issue are the amount of the tax and the distribution of funds; specifically, how the revenue would be divided among the state, local municipalities, and environmental-protection efforts.

Rendell said he would veto any proposal that did not come close to his plan for a 5 percent tax on sales of the extracted gas plus an additional 4.7 cents for every 1,000 cubic feet of gas produced.

With six days left in the session, Democrats who control the House have yet to agree on a legislative package.

"We are prepared to enact a tax, but we need a bill to come to us from the House," said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).

Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), who spoke at the environmental rally, which drew about 200 people, said he was angry with leaders of both parties in both chambers for failing to reach an agreement at this late hour.

"The goal is getting out of town without taking any tough votes," he said. "I feel that if both House and Senate leadership were really serious about getting a severance tax, there would have been negotiations in July, August, and early September, but here we are with two weeks left and there are a lot of things left undone."


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com.

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