Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is somewhere between long-shot and medium-shot for the 2016 GOP nomination, behind Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Rand Paul (ahaha just kidding never gonna happen). But his presence in Philadelphia last night was notable not just for his political plans but for his thoughts on energy policy. He, like Tom Corbett, is a big fracking booster, and wasn’t shy about dissing those who weren’t.
Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign will feature a lot of talk about Pennsylvania’s fracking boom–something Corbett has abetted and will try to use to his advantage. All the natural gas love, however, doesn’t extend to his own campaign bus, which will run on regular gasoline.
Click on this State Impact story and you’ll see a photo of Michael Nutter and Tom Corbett, awkwardly trying to cut a ribbon with the same pair of oversized scissors. Why? To celebrate the opening of a new rail yard that will facilitate the import of crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale to the massive refinery that sits on the banks of the Schuylkill.
Tom Corbett’s got a new ad out touting the job growth and cheap energy that has resulted from his pro-fracking policies. Using the image of a giant spinning globe. The takeaway of “Planet”: Tom Corbett is personally responsible for one-third of all the energy production in the United States. The spot doesn’t go full “In a World…” but it does start with “There’s a Place…” and that’s enough to make us giddy. To be sure, Corbett is a close ally of the natural gas industry, but it’s worth remembering that when it comes to fracking, his predecessor Ed Rendell is in the tank too.
h/t Politics PA
Philadelphia, are you ready for some fracking? The Marcellus Shale Coalition is, and they’ll be having that discussion (for the third year in row) right here in Philly starting on Wednesday. That’s right, hundreds of oil and gas CEOs, politicians, and industry captains all under the Convention Center’s non-union roof. It’s enough to make a liberal cry.
So what can we expect from this year’s festivities? Well, according to Coalition Vice President of Policy and Communications Steve Forde:
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, frontrunner in the gubernatorial sweepstakes, is trying to make Pennsylvania more like…Texas! She wants to tax natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale at 5%.
Schwartz told reporters on a conference call that her plan for what she called a “reasonable, fair, moderate tax” would generate $612 million this year and nearly triple to $2 billion by 2020. She said she wants to use the money to invest in education and transportation infrastructure.
Except for an “impact fee” which Corbett promises is not a real tax (hear that, Norquist?), Pennsylvania doesn’t tax gas and oil production at all. Texas and Oklahoma, natural giants in their own right, tax at 7.5 and 7 percent. North Dakota, king of the frack, has an 11.5% severance tax. In fact, PA’s the only state with lots of oil and gas that doesn’t impose a tax on drillers. Not taxing frackers heavily may give Pennsylvania a competitive advantage, but imposing one certainly won’t drive gas companies into the arms of other states with higher rates. According to a January PEW report, PA is bringing in far less revenue from drilling than its rivals.
A state-by-state study sponsored by API predicts that between 2012 and 2035, fracking will deliver $130 billion in taxes and payments to North Dakota and its local governments. Pennsylvania will collect $60 billion, and Texas $397 billion.
Given persistent budgetary problems, and a gas boom that appears here to stay, regardless of tax rates, Schwartz’s plan seems intuitive. [StateImpact]
Philadelphia-area property owners don’t have the option of leasing land to gas companies to cash in on the state’s Marcellus Shale fracking boom. (Nor is their tap water lighting on fire.) Because of the state’s impact fee (i.e. tax) on the process, however, it is reaping some financial benefits. According to data released yesterday, the Philadelphia region will get $3.4 million of the $202.5 million being disbursed statewide. Philly proper will get $1.3 million. [Inquirer]
The entire debate about the merits of Pennsylvania’s fracking boom rests on the tricky question of whether people’s air and water are being contaminated by the chemicals drillers use to get at the vast quantities of natural gas sitting underneath the state’s expansive Marcellus Shale formation. If procuring it is safe, then natural gas appears to be a great alternative to dirtier fossil fuels like coal and gas*. If not, well, it’s not.
Now, we have some answers. Newsworks flags the results of a painstaking investigation by the Scranton Times-Tribune mostly to highlight what a pain in the butt the state can be when it comes to releasing records from the Department of Environmental Protection. But the investigation also tells us how many contamination cases oil and gas drilling has really caused in Pennsylvania: From 2008 to 2012, the state found, water supply contamination was due to drilling in 161 of 969 reported cases, a large increase from the pre-fracking era. Whether we can even trust that number, as some analysts told the Times-Tribune, is another question altogether.
*This post has been updated to clarify that natural gas is also a fossil fuel; the original wording suggested it was not.
Yesterday, Ed Rendell wrote a big pro-fracking op-ed for the new New York Daily News, in an attempt to sway on-the-fence-and-has-presidential-ambitions Andrew Cuomo to approve fracking in the Empire State. And there was much cheering in gasworld. The Daily News, after learning that Rendell failed to disclose his own ties to the natural gas industry, was less pleased. Rendell is paid $30,000 a year by Element Partners, a private equity firm that invests in natural gas.
“Had I known, I certainly would have disclosed that and conceivably would have made a different judgment on the piece,” Daily News op-ed page editor Josh Greenman (who is incapable of doing a simple Google search) said.
The paper has since added a disclaimer. Upon being reached by a ProPublica reporter, fast Eddie said he should have made the connection clear, while adding that “he does not own equity in Element Partners or any fracking companies. The investigative outlet adds: “Rendell is also a senior adviser at the investment bank Greenhill, which has worked on several large transactions involving natural gas companies.This is not Rendell’s first fracking controversy in recent weeks. In early February, emails revealed Rendell’s personal efforts to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to back off a Texas gas contamination case involving Range Resources, a prominent natural gas driller in Pennsylvania. [ProPublica]
NPR’s StateImpact flagged a report yesterday called “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania,” and it’s pretty breathtaking. To summarize: Many of the powerful former officials who were deciding how the state dealt with the Marcellus Shale goldmine under our feet are now directly connected to the natural gas industry. (This is regular practice in D.C., but people are a little better at diversifying industries over there.) Which helps explain a bipartisan friendliness towards gas corporations that has not infrequently turned a blind eye towards public health concerns. Here are the big points:
- “Pennsylvania’s previous three governors have strong ties to the natural gas industry.” And the current one’s biggest campaign donations came from there too.
- “Every Secretary of Environmental Protection since the DEP was created has had ties to the natural gas industry.”Governor is one thing–but the people supposed to protect the environment from a highly volatile energy source that occasionally lights peoples’ water on fire?
- “Twenty Department of Environmental Protection employees have held jobs in the energy industry either before or after their agency jobs.” Same.
The full 30-page report, put out by the Public Accountability Initiative, is here.