Pennsylvania moved a step closer to assessing a fee on shale gas drillers yesterday, but Senate lawmakers supporting the levy say still have changes to make to the legislation before a final floor vote is taken.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee yesterday amended and voted unanimously to release S-1100. The bill would charge drillers an initial $40,000 fee per gas well. Changes approved by the committee raised the fee's initial cost, and also tweaked how that revenue is doled out.
[Copy of the amended legislation]
It's the first tax or fee on natural gas drilling that has cleared a Senate committee, since former Gov. Ed Rendell first urged creation of a severance tax two years ago.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who introduced the impact fee bill, said after the committee vote that he supported the changes that have been made thus far and pointed to public pressure on lawmakers as an impetus to approve it with the state budget this month.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows 69 percent of Pennsylvanians supporting a tax on drillers to help balance the state budget. The support was highest in the drilling-free southeast, where 77 percent of respondents backed the levy. But it was still strong in the southwest, with 72 percent in favor, and in Allegheny County, with 68 percent.