Q. This is a new initiative, and from what I understand, a fairly bold initiative. With most new programs, there is a cost. What is the cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers going to be?
A. The easy answer is --- nothing. This plan won’t cost the taxpayers a dime out of their pockets. The initial investment will be generated from tax dollars collected from the Marcellus industry. In 2009 alone, the Marcellus Shale industry produced $389 million in state and local tax revenue in Pennsylvania and more than 44,000 jobs. Yes, this plan will have an initial investment, but it will be paid for with money that is already coming in from Marcellus Shale. So to utilize money that is already there to create jobs for Pennsylvanians, while reducing our dependency on foreign oil, not to mention, natural gas is more environmentally friendly...it’s a no-brainer.
Q. Republican rhetoric, as of late, has been about controlling spending, cutting back on spending, no more reckless spending, etc... Given the current economic climate and the fact that the Commonwealth is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit for the end of this fiscal year, how can you justify any “new” spending (whether it is 1 dollar or 1 million dollars) to taxpayers?
How many long-term jobs did the federal government’s 787 billion dollar stimulus plan create...the key phrase is “long-term”?? Yes, this plan will require an initial investment that will be generated from Marcellus tax dollars...not from Pennsylvania taxpayers’ pockets. BUT...our Marcellus Works plan will create thousands of long-term jobs for Pennsylvanians. Keep in mind that the Marcellus Shale gas is projected to last for a half of a century. The jobs created from this industry are long-term jobs that will keep Pennsylvanians employed for years. Many of the individuals who are going to work for the natural gas industry today could spend an entire career in this industry if they choose to.
Q. Why would you need to offer tax credits to incite these businesses to convert to natural gas...wouldn’t the positive economic and environmental impact be incentive enough for those companies? Couldn’t this just be considered another form of helping big business?
A. The companies you often hear about making enormous profits are the drilling companies. This package incentives a new segment of the natural gas industry. This package would help the main street mechanics, the service industry, and the manufacturing industry. If you want an example of tax credits designed to help big business, look no further than Pennsylvania State Representative George’s severance tax legislation which gives large drilling companies tax credits for hiring workers – something they are doing already – WITHOUT A TAX CREDIT.
Q. Are there any programs out there that you used to model Marcellus Works after? Have any other states tried implementing this kind of initiative?
A. We took an in-depth look at the Pickens Plan while developing Marcellus Works. Generally speaking, the Pickens Plan utilizes solar energy, wind energy, and natural gas in an effort to work towards energy independence while creating jobs here in America. This is a concept that everyone can grasp onto. Reduce our energy dependence and create jobs. We wanted Pennsylvania to be in the forefront, especially when it comes to natural gas. We want other states to model their plans after our Marcellus Works program.
Q. These drilling companies are wrecking havoc on the environment. Why aren’t you looking at protecting the environment through the enactment of a severance tax?
A. We don't need more taxes to protect the environment - we need to enforce all of the laws and regulations that have been already enacted to protect the environment. While it may appear this industry lacks sufficient oversight, it is important to know there are a variety of state laws and regulations that have been put in place to govern these operations. There are three key Pennsylvania state laws that specifically govern oil and gas drilling operations. They are the Oil and Gas Act, the Oil and Gas Conservation Law, and the Coal and Gas Resource Coordination Act.
Q. A great number of Pennsylvanians fear that the jobs that are available now, and the jobs that have been created as a result of Marcellus Shale exploration, are going to out-of-state workers. Specifically, workers from Texas and Oklahoma. What would prevent the jobs that you are creating under Marcellus Works to go to those same workers from other states?
A. The idea that all of these jobs are going to individuals from other states is false. This is an idea that has been pushed by those parties that don’t want the Marcellus Shale industry to succeed. In fact, the majority of jobs that are being created by the Marcellus Shale industry are going to Pennsylvania workers. Only a small percentage of those jobs are going to workers from other states. Marcellus Works will actually increase the number of Pennsylvanians working because these are local jobs that can be performed by local workers.
Q. Do you support a severance tax?
A. Right now we are talking about creating jobs for Pennsylvanians. These are real, long-term jobs for thousands of workers. Keep in mind this isn’t about taking a relatively new industry and deciding they owe the government MORE of the money that they are making and, thus, should be taxed. We are looking at new and innovative ways to utilize this natural gas industry to the benefit of all citizens in Pennsylvania. This proposal will create jobs in the private sector without spending billions of dollars and accumulating debt. It is a break from the business as usual, tax and spend policies of the past which have proven to be counterproductive to job creation.