Pro & Anti Drilling Increasingly Divides Along Party Lines

With the new Pennsylvania law to regulate Marcellus drilling about to be signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, counties are already gearing up to vote on whether or not to accept the new impact fee provided for in the legislation. Although support or lack of support for Marcellus and Utica drilling cuts across political party lines, increasingly it tends to be Republicans in favor of drilling, and Democrats against. Take Centre County (State College area, smack in the very middle of PA) as an example, where commissioners are already planning a vote.

“We haven’t had time to discuss it as a board, but my opinion would be to implement the tax,” said Commissioner Chris Exarchos, a Republican.

Commissioners have 60 days after Corbett signs the bill to decide on the tax. If they vote in favor, the county would collect between $500,000 and $1 million this year, according to Steve Dershem, the board’s other Republican, who also favors the tax.

“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t go ahead,” he said, adding that he would like to put the money towards the county’s need for a new 911 emergency system.

The lone Democratic commissioner, Michael Pipe, said he opposed the bill, as, in his opinion, it doesn’t charge drillers enough and doesn’t impose a moratorium on new drilling.

“It’s too little, too late,” Pipe said. “Gas companies are moving away from Centre County to other areas … and we’ve missed out on a lot of revenue because the legislature didn’t step up to the plate years ago.”

Pipe said he is considering lodging a protest “no” vote, arguing that a vote for the tax would imply his approval of the bill as a whole.(1)

And take a look at the PA legislative representatives from that area:

…state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township…voted for the bill and said he thought Centre County should implement the fee.

Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, agreed that the county should tax its Marcellus gas, though he voted against the bill in the state House.(1)

The vote in the PA legislature went almost totally along party lines. It passed the Senate on Tuesday 31-19 and the House on Wednesday 101-90. Only 13 Republicans in the House and Senate voted against the measure, and seven Democrats voted for it.

Or take New Jersey, where fracking will never happen because there’s nothing to frack. The Democrats in that state feel the compulsion to oppose it anyway. A NJ Senate panel approved a fracking ban yesterday and reported it out of committee, even though just four months ago NJ Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill and instead implemented a one-year moratorium.

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection says there is no frackable natural gas in the state. Doesn’t matter, the Dems are pushing yet another ban bill.

"The environmental dangers posed by fracking are real, and the risks it could pose to New Jersey residents are abundantly clear," said state Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the bill (S246).

Right now, there is no drilling for natural gas in New Jersey. But Gordon and co-sponsor Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) said there is the "potential for massive natural gas deposits in beds of Utica shale – a ridge of which lies beneath Sussex and Warren counties."

But Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the DEP, said "there is no frackable shale in New Jersey that can produce energy."

The bill was approved 5-0 by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

Christie dismissed the bill as "why people hate government."

"Now they’re talking about fracking in a state where no one wants to frack," he said. "I mean, really?"(2)

(1) State College Centre Daily Times (Feb 10, 2012) – Region likely to take in revenue

(2) (Feb 9, 2012) – N.J. Senate panel approves bill to ban fracking