Energy. Environment. Economy.

While pushing gas tax, Wolf vague on how much money would stay local

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf at a campaign stop in Harrisburg.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf campaigning in Harrisburg Friday.

At a campaign stop in Harrisburg Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf repeated his pledge to enact a new tax on Pennsylvania’s natural gas production.

“I want to put a five percent severance tax on that gas,” he told a crowd of supporters. “And do it responsibly, from an environmental point of view.”

Gas companies are currently required to pay an impact fee for each well. In the past three years, the fees have generated more than $630 million. Most of the money is sent back to the local communities that host drilling.

Wolf, a York County businessman, says at current production levels his gas tax could generate $1 billion per year.

“This would take the place of the impact fee,” he explains. “It would include a big chunk to make sure the localities had money coming back to them.”

When asked by StateImpact Pennsylvania what constitutes “a big chunk,” he wasn’t sure.

“Down to the specific penny? I don’t have that,” he said.

Wolf wants to spend the rest of the tax revenue on increased drilling oversight at the state Department of Environmental Protection and investments in renewable energy and public education. He has a wide lead in the polls against incumbent Governor Tom Corbett.

Local elected officials from both parties worry about losing that impact fee revenue if Pennsylvania enacts a new gas tax.

“I certainly believe there should be some specificity [from Wolf],” says Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller, a Republican. “Going around making campaign speeches is one thing. We have to live with the consequences.”

Heavy drilling can lead to increased demands for road maintenance and repair, emergency preparedness, and housing. Bradford County is one of the most drilled on areas of Pennsylvania. Last year it received about $7 million in impact fees– more than any other county.

Shirl Barnhart is a Democratic supervisor for Morgan Township, in Greene County. In 2013, his municipality received $558,868 from impact fees. Speaking at a gas industry conference in Pittsburgh last month, Barnhardt said he’s concerned about what would happen to that money if Wolf is elected.

“The money is being best spent in the communities that are impacted,” he said. “People are learning to accept the industry and the municipalities are working better with the companies.”


  • Michael Aherne

    I myself have tried on a couple of occasions via the the Wolf website and email to to get a clarification on Tom Wolf’s policy in this regard. No reply!

    As a practicing Democrat but also a resident in Susquehanna County I am not convinced that his comments on this issue bode well for our region. He has gone so far as to say that the Impact Fee would be eliminated but that some percentage would go back to the local communities. I would suggest that he could work on a Severance Tax with the legislature but leave the Impact Fee in place and simply aim for a 5% total. The Impact Fee is the only thing that our relatively lower income area has to deal with the current known and future possible unknown ill effects of gas and oil production. We, while certainly not a homogeneous demographic, do live here because we have a history, a commitment to the land, or maybe just because we like it. All of the features of our area that are related to these reasons for living here, fresh air, lots of trees, good water, a lack of congestion, open spaces, etc., all could be at risk given the worst that could happen.

    I can’t foresee the upcoming legislature or anyone further into the future coming to our rescue if things somehow go wrong and we need to get something out of the general fund. Once the Impact Fee is gone I am afraid that our lack of population will leave us in the lurch. That a Republican administration actually secured guaranteed income for local communities from the gas and oil companies should be commended and hardly thrown under the bus by a Democratic administration.

    The Impact Fee should stay and the Severance Tax should have to pass on its own merits.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »