Several hundred protesters, representing 13-environmental and related groups, converged on the state capitol Tuesday. “We keep coming back to Harrisburg because [Marcellus Shale] drilling’s been going on in Pennsylvania for almost four years now, and what has our state legislature done? They have done nothing,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director of Clean Water Action. Arnowitt called for a moratorium on natural gas drilling, until an impact study can be complete. Protesters also called for a Marcellus Shale severance tax. “Poll after poll tells us that the majority of Pennsylvanians want industry to pay their fair share in taxes, and they want clean air and clean water,” said Erika Staaf, PennEnvironment’s clean water advocate.
The protesters’ chants started filling the state capitol rotunda mere minutes after several member of the Senate Democratic caucus concluded a separate news conference on their state budget priorities. But, there was some overlap in the two events. Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said natural gas drillers should be a part of the budget solution, not a part of the budget problem. “We believe that the conversation about the Marcellus extraction tax must take place now, must take place as a part of this budget, and must be as comprehensive as possible,” Costa said.
Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg have come forward, this session, with a variety of Marcellus Shale severance tax and/or impact fee proposals. Governor Tom Corbett made a no tax pledge during the 2010 campaign, but has left the door open for a local impact fee, as long as no revenue goes to pad state coffers. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission has meetings scheduled through July 15th. Their recommendations are due at the end of July, however the state budget deadline is June 30th.