In the seven years since Marcellus Shale gas companies began working in Pennsylvania’s state forests, none of the nearly 1,700 affected acres has been fully restored and put back the way it was before drilling began.
Now state foresters and Penn State scientists are trying to plan for the future and help gas companies figure out the best ways to clean up after themselves.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Gov. Wolf made taxing the natural gas industry a central campaign pledge and a key part of his budget proposal.
Governor Wolf’s proposed severance tax on natural gas drilling will cost Pennsylvania thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, according to a report released Thursday by the American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest oil and gas trade group.
API projects the governor’s tax will result in 1,364 fewer wells over the next decade, resulting in a cumulative drilling investment loss of $11.5 billion to the state.
“When Pennsylvanians see what this tax could do to a vibrant industry, they’ll have to think twice about it,” says Stephanie Catarino Wissman, head of API’s Pennsylvania division in Harrisburg.
Wolf’s tax proposal is part of his broader budget package. It calls for a five percent tax on the value of the gas, plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet. It would also set a minimum value of $2.97 per thousand cubic feet, regardless of its actual sale price.
“He is setting an artificial price,” says Wissman. “What I equate that to, is someone earning $40,000 a year having to pay the same in income taxes as someone earning $100,000 per year.”
Wolf expects his tax to raise $1 billion in the first year and says he wants to spend much of the money to increase funding to public education.
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
Fracking activist Vera Scroggins speaks with a reporter outside the courthouse in Montrose after her most recent hearing in April.
Anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins will be permanently barred from sites operated by Cabot Oil and Gas, according to a recent court order.
Scroggins is already facing a $1,000 fine and possible jail time for getting too close to a Cabot site in January. Since 2013, she has been subject to a temporary injunction, requiring her to stay away from the company’s gas sites. This new court order means the restrictions will be permanent. It requires her to stay off Cabot sites and adhere to 25 to 100 foot buffer zones. She intends to challenge the order.
“They have invaded our county,” Scroggins says of Cabot. “Why should I let them tell me where to park, where to walk, and where to stand?”
Scroggins initially agreed to the restrictions last fall, but she later changed her mind and refused to sign the final document. She objects to the fact that the buffer zones extend out onto public roads and other people’s private property.
Cabot successfully argued her signature on the deal didn’t matter. The judge sided with the company and found that she had authorized her attorneys to agree to it on her behalf.
Courtesy Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
A smallmouth bass was found in the Susquehanna River with a rare, cancerous tumor last fall.
A smallmouth bass caught in the Susquehanna River last fall was found to have a rare, cancerous tumor, and it has the head of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission worried.
John Arway tells WITF this should be a wake-up call to researchers studying the health of the river.
He has publicly clashed with the state Department of Environmental Protection over whether or not to list the main stem of the Susquehanna as officially impaired.
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
“It’s a substantial step in the right direction," Senator Casey says of new federal oil train rules. "But just like anything else, it has to be complimentary to what we do legislatively.”
Senator Bob Casey (D) says the U.S. needs to do a better job of investing in safety, training, and preparation for the massive increase in shipments of crude oil by train. Deadly derailments, spills, and close-call accidents have sparked a push for tougher regulations.
On Friday, the federal Department of Transportation announced new rules for oil trains, which will phase out the current tank cars, implement stronger tank car standards, and require upgraded braking systems.
Speaking in Harrisburg Monday, Casey says he’s co-sponsoring a new bill, along with six other Democrats, called the Hazardous Materials Rail Transportation Safety Improvement Act.
“Communities need to be given more information,” he says. “The rule is a step forward, but we need to make sure we add to that with legislation.”