Marie Cusick is StateImpact Pennsylvania's Harrisburg reporter at WITF. Her work regularly takes her throughout the state covering Marcellus Shale natural gas production. Marie first began reporting on the gas boom in 2011 at WMHT (PBS/NPR) in Albany, New York. A native Pennsylvanian, she was born and raised in Lancaster and holds a degree in political science and French from Lebanon Valley College. In 2014 Marie was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow award for her coverage of Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.
At a June 2015 press conference, GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai voiced his opposition to a severance tax while reading directly from a booklet of talking points prepared by EQT, a major drilling company near his home district in southwestern Pa.
Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg have wanted to raise revenue by passing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. Polls have consistently shown a majority of Pennsylvania voters support it. Last year, the idea helped propel Democrat Tom Wolf into the governor’s mansion.
But now, as Wolf and the Republican-led legislature struggle to reach a budget deal after a nearly five-month long standoff, the severance tax is once again off the table.
The tax has been debated since the shale boom took off, so why hasn’t it happened?
There are two main reasons: lawmakers who loathe raising taxes– and lobbyists.
DEP Secretary John Quigley at Wednesday's Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting.
At a recent press conference, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley joked with reporters that he’d assembled “the world’s largest committee” to try to deal with the state’s building boom of natural gas pipelines.
He was in a decidedly less jovial mood Wednesday as he tried to corral the 48-member group. Quigley didn’t want them to parse every word of the committee’s 335 page draft report, which contains 184 separate recommendations.
“Folks need to take a breath and realize these are broad recommendations,” he said.
The Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force is comprised of people from government, industry, and environmental groups. The idea is to bring planning and best practices to pipeline projects that move Marcellus Shale products to new markets. Some industry representatives were reluctant to endorse recommendations they viewed as too specific. Continue Reading →
A Lancaster County schoolteacher and opponent of the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline had a disorderly conduct conviction against her thrown out by a county judge Tuesday.
In April, 54-year-old Kimberly Kann was arrested for failing to follow special meeting rules in Conestoga Township, which permitted people to ask questions but barred them from making statements. During the meeting Kann stood up to correct what she viewed as misstatements about a ballot initiative to study home rule. Pipeline opponents had been pushing for the measure in an effort to block the Atlantic Sunrise project.
Although the disorderly conduct conviction was $325 between a fine and court costs, Kann spent about $3,000 appealing it.
“I’ve had a lot of crap thrown at me over this,” she says. “But if you’re not willing to deal with that, and spend the money, it ends with people who speak up getting thrown out of the room. That’s scary to me.”
Williamsport has a long history of using its natural resources. It was once the lumber capital of the world. But changing economics and deforestation led to the industry’s decline.
More recently the city saw an economic renaissance, thanks to the Marcellus Shale boom. But the ups and downs of drilling can make it difficult to make long term plans– particularly when it comes to housing. The influx of gas workers led to strains on the region’s housing supply, especially for low-income people and seniors.
StateImpact Pennsylvania partnered with Keystone Crossroads to examine the state’s changing spaces. See our segment below, and tune in forthe full show on WITF-TV Sunday, November 15 at 6:00pm.
Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources and attractive river system have made it a hub of industry since its founding in the 1600′s. These industries’ boom-and-bust cycles spurred rapid growth in cities, then just as quickly left those spaces behind.
StateImpact Pennsylvania partnered with Keystone Crossroads to look at how the Marcellus Shale gas industry has affected housing in Williamsport. Tune in to see the full episode on WITF-TV Thursday, November 12 at 8:00pm.
A year ago, Chesapeake disclosed that it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice and several states. The company is also defending lawsuits related to royalty underpayment in at least half a dozen states, including Pennsylvania. It’s the focus of an ongoing investigation by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office.
As the budget impasse drags on into its fourth month, F&M pollster Terry Madonna thinks enacting a new tax on the gas industry would be a natural compromise between the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to raise new revenue for the state.
Pennsylvania has been without a state budget for nearly four months.
The two state agencies overseeing Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry say the ongoing budget impasse in Harrisburg is not adversely affecting the “critical” parts of their missions. But other bills are going unpaid and meetings are being postponed.
“Our vendors are feeling the pinch,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley tells StateImpact. “Landlords from whom we rent space are feeling the pinch. Utilities are feeling the pinch. So all of the non-personnel costs—there is definitely a lot of pain.”
Anti-fracking activist Dory Hippauf joined with other protesters outside the state Department of Environmental Protection's meeting. "The pipeline companies do not respect the people," she says.
Anti-fracking protesters are squaring off with Governor Tom Wolf’s administration over its efforts to collaborate with natural gas pipeline companies.
About 20 protesters showed up for the governor’s pipeline task force Wednesday in Harrisburg. The committee is headed by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley. It’s comprised of representatives from local, state, federal government, as well as energy companies, and environmental groups. It’s aimed at creating plans and best practices for the region’s pipeline building boom, which will bring thousands of miles of new interstate pipelines to carry Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas to new markets.
“What you’re doing is wrong,” Bucks County climate activist Jasmine Spence told the panel.”[Natural gas] is not a bridge fuel. It’s a fuel that will lock us into more methane emissions. The problem here is the power of the fossil fuel industry.”