When Governor Tom Corbett addressed the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors’ annual conference last year, he used the speech to lay out his platform on natural gas drilling. He called the idea of a severance tax on drilling “un-American,” and insisted gas extraction was “giving hope” and rehabilitating the economy in northeast and southwest Pennsylvania.
So when Corbett returned to the Hershey Lodge this morning to address a ballroom filled with local officials who will be directly impacted by Pennsylvania’s new Act 13 drilling law, audience members expected to hear about energy.
Corbett focused most of his speech on impending budget negotiations, but he did spend about five minutes on drilling, saying his administration has “begun to transfer Pennsylvania into a leader in energy.” He praised the impact fee legislation he signed into law in February, saying, “We addressed the issues of protecting the environment, of reasonable regulation, and of impacts to our communities.”
Left unmentioned: the restrictions the new law places on local governments’ ability to zone and regulate drilling. A handful of municipalities have sued to block the statewide zoning standards from going into effect.
Act 13 will be a major topic of conversation as township supervisors meet this week: two sessions will focus on the new law and its implications for local governments, including a Wednesday morning forum featuring Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, Public Utility Commission Chairman Rob Powelson, and Corbett Administration Energy Executive Patrick Henderson.
StateImpact Pennsylvania will provide coverage of both events, and live-blog the Wednesday panel.
Corbett also hailed Shell’s decision to build an ethane cracker in Beaver County. “When we break ground – and I won’t feel comfortable until we break ground – we will be breaking ground to an industry that is going to provide tens of thousands of jobs…in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “We haven’t had a manufacturing base, as we’re going to, for decades. We will be starting down the road to recovery. …When that [ethane cracker] is built, it will do exactly what I’ve been talking about since I started running for governor: jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Construction is likely years away, but Shell has begun the process of applying for environmental permits with the state.
Check the StateImpact Pennsylvania website all week for updates on what township supervisors are saying about drilling at their annual conference.