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As fraud allegations mount against Chesapeake Energy, so does frustration

Landowners who have been accusing natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy of stealing their money say Harrisburg is doing little to stop it.

Most of the company’s Pennsylvania operations are in Bradford County. It’s a rural area stretching along the New York border; it has more Marcellus shale gas wells than any other part of the state. StateImpact Pennsylvania first talked with landowners there in June 2013.

A year-and-a-half later, they say Chesapeake is still cheating them:


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Following fracking scandal, state Rep. Jesse White loses House seat

State Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) apologized for using fake online personas to bully shale gas supporters.

State Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) apologized for using fake online personas to bully shale gas supporters.

A Pittsburgh area Democrat and vocal fracking critic lost his state House seat last night. Rep. Jesse White (D- Allegheny) was caught last year in an online bullying scandal by Pittsburgh’s local CBS affiliate.

In May 2013 the TV station reported White had been using pseudonyms to bully online commenters who express support for shale gas development. He later apologized.

White was soundly defeated by Republican challenger Jason Ortitay. The Washington Observer-Reporter covered his loss, which he blamed on negative ads.

“This wasn’t a campaign; it was a character assassination. They dragged my name through the mud and it worked, this time,” White said. “We did everything we could have done. I’m proud of my campaign.”

Ortitay did not dispute the nastiness of the campaign, but said he’s ready to work for his new constituents as he learns the nuances of state government.

“From here on out, it’s about bringing people together,” Ortitay said. “If you have disagreements, I’m here to be reasonable and be fair and to help bridge the gap to bring people together to build a better 46th District.”

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Travel the Turnpike with StateImpact Pennsylvania

Drivers traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike can see nearly every major form of energy from their car window.

As the federal government pushes states to cut emissions that are leading to climate change, StateImpact Pennsylvania took a road trip down the toll road. We profiled five major energy sources along the way: coal, wind, nuclear, solar, and oil.

Learn more about the project, and visit our special website to hear all the stories.

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On public land, a gas company takes private control

On any given day Bob Deering doesn’t know how much trouble he’ll have getting to and from his home. He lives on a mountain in Lycoming County and he’s routinely stopped and questioned by security guards. It’s been happening for the past six years– ever since the natural gas boom began.

“I’ve been coming up here with my grandparents since 1953,” he says. “But if I would have known in 2001 what I know now, I’d never have built a house up here.”

Deering expected to enjoy a quiet retirement. In the early 2000′s, he and his wife built a log home from a kit. Their property is surrounded by state forest and game land.

But in recent years their neighborhood has gotten noisy as gas companies drill wells, build pipelines, and move heavy equipment.

Nearly a third of Pennsylvania’s roughly 2 million acres of public forest land is already available for oil and gas development. Governor Corbett wants to lease even more land, but an environmental group is suing to try to stop him.

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Meet the Candidates: Governor Tom Corbett

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with the gubernatorial candidates on issues related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

Meet the candidate in a brief video, and read a more detailed transcript of our interview below. Both the video and transcript have been edited, separately, for length and clarity. The primary is on May 20th. 

Name: Tom Corbett

Party affiliation: Republican

Residence: Shaler, Allegheny County

Occupation: Governor of Pennsylvania, elected in 2010

Campaign websitewww.tomcorbettforgovernor.com

 

Q: Your democratic opponents all support a severance tax on natural gas drilling. Why do you support the current impact fee?

A: The purpose of the impact fee was to obtain revenue for the areas that have been impacted on a daily basis by the drilling that is going on up there and as you know, to date we have gotten over $630 million in three years from that impact fee that is paid by the companies. [Those] funds come to the PUC to be distributed back out to the communities. Sixty-three percent goes to the counties and all counties get something out of this, but the 40 counties that have the impact of the drilling going on, which is to their roads and to their communities, get the majority of that. But even counties like Philadelphia receive funds from this even though there’s no drilling going on down there. And one of the reasons it went to the PUC is if it goes into the general fund, it could be spent anywhere and clearly those communities do have an impact from the drilling activity, a very positive impact, but also there’s some usage on the roads and there’s some infrastructure impacts that had to be dealt with. The communities are supportive of this and it was a fair way of treating the development of this industry with those areas that are being covered.

But I do want to remind everybody that all of these companies, like any other company and any other individuals, pay taxes to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It’s over $2 billion in taxes that have been paid to the Commonwealth by these companies and by the individuals working in these companies in a combination of corporate and net income tax, sales and use tax, corporate stock and franchise tax, personal income tax, so it’s not like these companies are not paying in, they are paying in.

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Meet the Candidates: Tom Wolf

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with the gubernatorial candidates on issues related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

Meet the candidate in a brief video, and read a more detailed transcript of our interview below. Both the video and transcript have been edited, separately, for length and clarity. The primary is on May 20th. 

Name: Tom Wolf

Party affiliation: Democrat

Residence: Mount Wolf, York County

Occupation: Chairman and CEO, The Wolf Organization, Inc.

Campaign websitewww.wolfforpa.com

 

Q: Do you support a severance tax or the current impact fee on natural gas extraction?

A: I’m proposing a 5 percent severance tax I call it, although I’m not quite sure what the distinction is between that and an extraction tax or even the impact fee. The impact fee is about 1.3 percent of market value right now, depending on your calculation, and [most] of that goes to local government. My severance tax would be imposed as a percent of the market price at the wellhead which right now I think is around $4 per thousand cubic feet, which according to some estimates would raise around $700 million in the first year. The hope is as the price goes up, as demand goes up, it would be higher in the future.

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Meet the Candidates: Allyson Schwartz

This is the third in a series of interviews with the gubernatorial candidates on issues related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

Meet the candidate in a brief video, and read a more detailed transcript of our interview below. Both the video and transcript have been edited, separately, for length and clarity. The primary is on May 20th.

Name: Allyson Schwartz

Party affiliation: Democrat

Residence: Jenkintown, Montgomery County

Occupation: Congresswoman, 13th District, elected in 2004

Campaign website: www.allysonschwartz.com

 

Q: Do you support a severance tax or the current impact fee on natural gas extraction?

A: I support both. I think we should maintain the impact fee. It’s been important to local communities and we should maintain that and it’s good dollars to use, important dollars to use to enforce the environmental regulations at the state. I would actually make sure those environmental regulations are strong ones and that they are clearly enforced, but I would add a 5 percent extraction tax because right now, Tom Corbett’s giving away that natural gas to the energy companies.

Q: How would you spend the money?

A: I would use those dollars to pay for education and restore some of the cuts that Tom Corbett has made in education and I would use it for universal pre-K for 4-year-olds, make sure kids start school ready to learn. [It’s] one of the smartest things we can do. Second, I would use some of the money for infrastructure projects, big transportation projects. I would use some of those dollars to capitalize an infrastructure bank [for] big, transformative transportation projects that help grow the economy across the state. And third, I would use some of the dollars for clean energy. The shale is still a fossil fuel and we ought to be building towards a future, to make sure we invest in wind and solar and hydro and energy efficiency and be a leader in all four.

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Meet the candidates: Rob McCord

This is the first in a series of interviews with the gubernatorial candidates on issues related to shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

Meet the candidate in a brief video, and read a more detailed transcript of our interview below. Both the video and transcript have been edited, separately, for length and clarity. The primary is on May 20th. 

Name: Rob McCord

Party affiliation: Democrat

Residence: Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County

Occupation: State Treasurer, elected in 2008

Campaign website: www.robmccord.com

 

Q: Do you support a severance tax or the current impact fee on natural gas extraction?

A: The courts have told Tom Corbett what I think most of the public already knows and that’s that the local impact fee is bad law. I think it ought to be replaced with a drillers’ tax. Some call it an extraction tax. I realize sometimes people get a glassy look and it’s like, “You don’t know what we’re talking about when we say this, right?” So it’s a drillers’ tax and it would be imposed on those are drilling a natural resource that cannot be drilled from outside the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a core point here when we’re talking about job creation. We would hold harmless, by the way, the local communities that have enjoyed revenues for real impacts, real costs on these local communities and counties and infrastructure projects and so forth, but we’d have dramatically increased revenue from $200 million to $1.63 billion under the McCord proposal for a drillers’ tax, a 10 percent fee and the lion’s share of that would be earmarked for investing in education, education, education, but we would also have enhanced revenue for environmental protection.

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Pa. drill rig manufacturer taking the ‘rough’ out of roughnecking

As shale oil and gas production soars in states like Pennsylvania, Texas and North Dakota, the number of drill rigs towering over treetops is on the decline. Operators are becoming more efficient and advances in technology are driving other changes in oil and gas fields.

Several hours away from where drillers are boring down into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, Schramm Inc. is manufacturing new rigs that, in the words of CEO Ed Breiner, “take the ‘rough’ out of roughnecking.” Schramm’s latest model – the T500XD – requires 40 percent fewer workers than a conventional rig.

Last week, StateImpact Pennsylvania visited Schramm’s factory in West Chester, Pennsylvania to learn more about how technology is shaping the future of drilling jobs.

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