LETTER: Land trust supports shale tax
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, which is made up of 75 of Pennsylvania's leading land conservation organizations, endorses the Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed natural gas severance tax proposal and asks you to support it. The association also generally favors any other fair and reasonable proposal that dedicates a significant portion of the tax revenue to the conservation and restoration of Pennsylvania's natural resources.
The association favors such proposals because:
•Natural gas development imposes costs on our shared environment — some immediately apparent, some which may take years to become evident.
•History demonstrates that those who extract natural resources seldom, if ever, fully compensate the public for the costs of the extraction to our shared environment (for example, pollution from old mines and gas wells). The result is a net loss to our shared natural resources.
•A natural gas severance tax may redress this situation by allocating the revenue to reinvest in public natural resources or by addressing public needs more broadly, reducing budgetary pressures that otherwise would squeeze government investments in protecting our land and water.
•80 percent of the severance tax revenue would come from out of state. Pennsylvanians bear the burden of severance taxes charged by every other major gas producing state; it's equitable that Pennsylvanians, too, should benefit from severance tax revenues. (Though Pennsylvania's natural gas impact fee does deliver revenue, it is far less than the industry pays in severance taxes in other states.)
The association notes that the governor's proposal boosts the commonwealth's ability to have enough inspectors to ensure that gas operations comply with laws that protect public health and our shared land and water resources. The proposal also invests in solar and other energy technologies that will reduce the need for industry and government to condemn land for new energy infrastructure; reduce damage to wildlife habitat and loss of agricultural production associated with energy infrastructure; and provide water quality and other environmental benefits.
Strong needs exist for boosting the commonwealth's investments in the conservation of our land, air, water and wildlife. The governor's proposal takes a good step in addressing the energy sector but substantially greater and broader investments in the protection and restoration of Pennsylvania's natural resources are much needed. The association looks forward to working with legislators in this and future years to address these environmental investment needs.
ANDREW M. LOZA
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association