Corbett speaks against drilling tax

The governor also told a group of local officials he would not let operations "poison the water."

Posted: April 19, 2011

HERSHEY, Pa. - Gov. Corbett vowed Monday to not allow natural-gas drillers to "poison the water," while also restating his case against imposing a tax on the state's booming industry.

He gave a detailed defense of his opposition to a gas severance tax during his remarks to the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors' annual gathering. As he brought up the subject of Marcellus Shale drilling, one woman in the audience shouted: "They're poisoning our water!"

Corbett replied that he will not let that happen, adding to the ballroom packed with township officials that oversight of the industry should be "based on science, not emotion."

Speaking to reporters afterward, the governor again said he believes that drilling has impacted communities. But any locally assessed fee should be done in a way that does not encourage companies to invest elsewhere, he said.

"I will protect the environment, but I will help grow an industry that is hiring Pennsylvanians and giving hope," Corbett said.

Shortly after the governor's remarks, David Sanko, the association's executive director, said the group is continuing to push for some form of tax or fee to help municipalities manage their costs. Senate Republicans are working on a measure to authorize a local impact fee.

A handful of southwestern Pennsylvania township supervisors gave varying descriptions of the impacts they've seen, and the willingness of drillers to mitigate them. During a well-attended morning session on local drilling issues, many pointed to road maintenance amid heavy truck traffic as their biggest problem.

Communication between companies and government on road-repair issues is easier in an area like Washington County's Chartiers, where Range Resources is the sole drilling company, Township Supervisor Harlan Shober said. He said Range recently paid $10 million to fix 13.5 miles of the township's roads, allowing for more repairs than the local budget would have covered.

Shober said he worries about unforeseen long-term effects and wants to see more prevention and planning.

"Let's work on the environmental side, so we aren't finding something out three years down the road that we should have heard now," he said.

Corbett said he has asked his shale commission to review those impacts and others, such as the effects on schools and crime.

But he said a severance tax would be "detrimental" to areas of the state that have seen job growth in sectors beyond drilling.

"We are in competition right now, and the most crucial time, in my opinion, is right now in getting jobs to Pennsylvania," Corbett said.

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