Nothing In Senate $970 Million Revenue Package For The Environment, Code Bills Littered With Environmental Riders
By a vote of 26 to 24 the Senate Thursday passed a $970 million revenue package that includes no new money for environmental project or program funding and the related Code bills are filled with environmental riders, most wanted by industry groups.
The package does include a new natural gas severance tax, a new gross receipts tax on consumer natural gas use, increases in the telcom and electric gross receipts taxes and changes to the Sales Tax law that would force vendors doing business through online marketplaces such as Amazon to pay Sales Tax.
Also part of the recurring revenue package is $200 million for expanded gaming, but the Senate will not consider a gaming bill until later.
Nonrecurring revenues include transferring $200 million from the Joint Underwriting Association Fund, but so far no transfers from environment-related funds..
There remaining budget deficit will be made up by securitizing the tobacco settlement money totalling about $1.3 billion in new debt.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) also said Senate Republicans intend to do agency mergers related to human service programs, but not this week.
Taking Away DEP’s Ability To Issue Permits
The Tax Code Bill adopted by the Senate-- House Bill 542 (Thomas-D-Philadelphia) -- includes provisions creating a special Advisory Committee that must approve any air quality general permits for oil and gas operations before they go into effect and directs DEP to set up a third-party permit review program for all its permits.
The net impact of the changes would be to emasculate the ability of the Department of Environmental Protection to regulate pollution under any of its programs and sets up significant conflicts with the ability of the agency to continue to administer any of its federal regulatory programs.
The Senate amendments propose to take away DEP’s permit fees and create another private bureaucracy of third-party reviewers and allow a permit applicant to pick the reviewer he wants, including picking a landscape architect to review as hazardous waste permit.
All, of course, with no resources to administer this new private bureaucracy and with no supervision or accountability provisions for the third-party reviewers.
Click Here for all the details.
The new severance tax is expected to generate about $108 million and revenues generated from the tax will be pledged to hold harmless the Unconventional Gas Well [Act 13 Impact Fee] Fund at the $200 million annual funding level and the remainder will be deposited in the General fund.
In exchange for the severance tax, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre) said they have negotiated regulatory reforms for the Marcellus Shale drilling industry that involves provisions that would deem approve permits not processed by existing permit review deadline (45 days), not starting the clock over again when a permit is resubmitted and “other issues significant for the industry.” (Click Here for a description of those changes, which were partially described above.)
Scarnati, Corman Stabbed Us In The Back
“Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati have betrayed the Marcellus gas industry and should be tossed out on their rear-ends in the next election.
The Rest Of The Article Says...
If you subscribe to the Marcellus Shale News, this is what a key part of the remainder of the article says--
“We sincerely hope and trust the drilling industry will put big money behind challengers to Corman, Scarnati and the other traitors in the PA Senate. In fact, we have the list of names from the Republicans on the budget committee who voted “yes” to a severance tax, so you know who to vote (and contribute) against next time around.”
The article goes on to list the Republican “traitors” and the “four brave Republicans who voted against this insanity, worthy of your support in the next election” -- Senators Argall, Langerholc, Martin and Wagner.
Click Here for an image of the article not included in the free view and from which this quote was taken.
The new Gross Receipts Tax on Natural Gas would generate about $303.7 million of which $20 million dedicated to LIHEAP and $20 million for natural gas infrastructure improvements and to expand market access for residential gas customers.
Another provision would annually transfer $20 million from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund for distribution to the Environmental Stewardship Fund [it should be $35 million] and $15 million is transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund to transfer to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
The summary of these provisions includes the line: “When making appropriations from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund, the General Assembly shall consider their trustee duties under Section 27, Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution” in a nod to the June 20 PA Supreme Court case on the Environmental Rights Amendment.
The following is a summary of the major environment-related riders in the Fiscal Code, Tax Code and Administrative Code bills--
Fiscal Code - House Bill 453 (Ryan-R-Lebanon)
-- Oil and Gas Lease Fund: Annually transfer $20 million [supposed to be $35 million] from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund for distribution to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and $15 million transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund to transfer to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
-- Air Pollution Act Transfer: $30.4 million from a settlement by the Attorney General relating to violations of the Air Pollution Control Act by Volkswagen received during the fiscal year to the General Fund.
-- Small Water And Sewer System Funding: $15 million available for small water and sewer projects with a cost of not less than $30,00 or more than $500,000. Transfers an additional $10 million from Building PA Program to small water and sewer projects.
-- Funding Sewer/Water Laterals: Allows public municipal authorities to use funds to replace private water and sewer laterals.
-- Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions: Authorizes the Auditor General to audit the river basin commissions and no more than 25 percent of the appropriations to the commissions may be spent in any quarter and the commissions shall reimburse the Auditor General for the cost of the audit.
-- Natural Gas Pipeline Fund: $6 million transfer from the Building Pennsylvania Program to the Natural Gas Pipeline Fund
-- Repeals Drilling Moratorium End Date In Southeast: Repeals the January 1, 2018 expiration on the drilling moratorium in the South Newark Basin in Southeast PA.
-- Temporary Cessation Of Oil & Gas Wells: Provisions relating to payments of royalties during periods of nonproduction.
-- Farm Succession Planning Grants: Allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for succession planning grants to continue agricultural operations.
Click Here for the amendment
Tax Code - House Bill 542 (Thomas-D-Philadelphia)
-- Natural Gas Production Severance Tax (New): $108 million, would range from 1.5 to 3.5 cents per MCF depending on the price of natural gas. Revenues generated from the tax will be pledge to hold harmless the Unconventional Gas Well [Act 13 Impact Fee] Fund at $200 million and the remainder will be deposited in the General fund.
-- Gross Receipts Tax (New) - Natural Gas: $303.7 million of which $20 million dedicated to LIHEAP, $20 million for natural gas infrastructure improvements and to expand market access for residential gas customers
-- Wild Conservation Tax Checkoff: Made permanent
Click Here for the amendment.
Administrative Code - House Bill 118 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne)
-- Recycling Fee Extension: Removes the sunset date for the $2/ton municipal waste recycling fee and funds will remain in the Recycling fund for grants.
-- Manganese Standard: Directs the Environmental Quality Board to propose regulations setting a point source water quality criterion for manganese and changing the point of compliance from the discharge point to the point of intake by public water supplies. [Supported by the Coal Alliance adopting a standard used by West Virginia prohibiting enforcement of a manganese discharge standard unless it was within 5 miles of a water supply.]
-- Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment: Requires water treatment facilities providing water disposal services exclusively to conventional oil and gas wells shall be allowed to operate under existing permits through December 31, 2019. \[Supported by conventional oil & gas drilling industry and applies to three privately-operated conventional wastewater treatment facilities.]
-- Wyoming County State Park: Requires DCNR to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a state park in Wyoming County, including an appraisal of the fair market value of property proposed for a state park. [No funding provided.]
Click Here for Administrative Code bill amendment + summary
(Sen. Corman’s press Conference was broadcast by PLS Reporter via the Periscope App.)
[Posted: July 27, 2017]
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