By T. Anthony Iannelli
Aside from a handful of groups that rely on permanent crisis for support, people in this state realize the importance of this new energy resource. The natural gas being extracted from the shale two miles underneath us is providing jobs, energy independence and, to the surprise of many, tax revenues -- $1 billion in state and local taxes during the last five years.
Some critics talk about how Gov. Tom Corbett should make the drillers “pay their fair share.” But what does this term, “fair share,” mean?
Is it the more than $76 billion shale gas contributed to GDP in 2010 that is expected to increase to $231 billion in 2035?
Or the 600,000 jobs the industry supported in 2010 — expected to grow to over 1.6 million by 2035?
Or, is it the spinoffs that have created a boom in support industries, ranging from engineering to environmental services to pipe manufacturing to residential and commercial construction?
When critics say “fair share,” they mean they want dollars from the prosperous gas industry to pay or subsidize other industries and projects. Some critics are falsely saying that the state is providing billions in subsidies to the fossil fuels industry. Some are saying to focus subsidies on expensive renewable sources of energy. But, what about the impact on Commonwealth families?
Philadelphians are already enjoying lower energy bills. In the Lehigh Valley, engineering firms and support businesses are expanding because of jobs in the Marcellus fields -- while reducing carbon emissions. With record low prices and home heating bills that have dropped by 40 percent this winter, some folks still think another tax will solve our problems.
What “fair share” should mean is a per-well impact fee – precisely the approach the Corbett Administration and the legislature have been discussing — not an additional tax. The impact fee would focus money on the towns and counties that actually host the drilling sites, ensuring repairs for wear and tear on the area and underwriting increased environmental enforcement.
But the value of the industry extends beyond the impact fee. As a jobs report by President Obama’s Administration put it: “Of the major fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest and least carbon-intensive for electric power generation. By keeping domestic energy costs relatively low, this resource also supports energy intensive manufacturing in the United States.”
Slowly, everybody’s catching on. In Pennsylvania, we got this one right. The members of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce are committed to working with Governor Corbett’s Administration, our public officials and the gas industry to ensure all Pennsylvanians prosper and grow for generations to come! For more information on The Chamber’s public policy positions on Marcellus Shale and more, please visit www.lehighvalleychamber.org.
Iannelli is president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.