Pennsylvania’s Senate approved a tax reform bill with provisions to tax both natural gas production and consumption in the state. Oil and gas trade associations there strongly criticized the July 26 action, which passed by a 26-24 vote. The amended bill, which apparently attempts to close a budget deficit, now heads back to the state House, where its prospects are uncertain. HB 542 would impose an $80-million severance tax on unconventional gas production and a $400-million tax on gas consumption, according to the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association. Sales of LPG and for generation of electricity would be exempt. “It is widely accepted that the Marcellus shale is a once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity for Pennsylvania,” PIOGA Pres. Daniel J. Weaver said. “The development of this enormous resource—drilling and production—is the initial benefit that has already created significant job growth in the commonwealth. The much bigger and longer-term benefit that we are just beginning to realize is from the increased use of this enormous resource. “The Senate action last night has struck a severe blow to both ends of this benefit spectrum,” Weaver said. Unconventional gas producers tapping Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus shale formation are only beginning to recover from several depressed prices the last 2 years that resulted in significant job cuts and financial losses, he said.
The bill’s gross receipts tax on gas is even more baffling, Weaver said. “Lower prices in Pennsylvania the past 5 years have not only reduced burner tip prices, but have caused massive reductions in the price of electricity across the commonwealth,” he said. API-Pennsylvania Executive Director Stephanie Catarino Wissman said the bill targets creators and industry to pay more and families to take home less. “This punitive tax hike isn’t about paying one’s fair share or doing one’s part; the natural gas industry alone has paid over $1.2 billion in impact taxes since 2011, the bulk of which goes to local governments,” she said. “The real impact is on families who could be paying much more for living in Pennsylvania if the House doesn’t reject this measure.” The American Petroleum Institute affiliate’s top official called HB 542 “a backwards approach that ignores economic reality, puts tens of thousands of good family sustaining jobs and money for groceries in peril, while jeopardizing the future prosperity of the commonwealth. “We can continue to work together by making investments in Pennsylvania, and that begins with smart energy policy so that the benefits of energy development continue to flow,” she said.