Wolf Pledges to Pursue Severance Tax Next 4 Years if Reelected

We’re going to dub Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, “Tommy One Note.” Wolf participated in a debate with his far-more-qualified-to-be-governor opponent, Scott Wagner, Monday evening in Hershey, PA. It was/is the only debate that will be held between the two. The debate (if you can call it that) was “moderated” by Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. During the debate Wolf indicated that if he is elected to a second four-year term, he will keep fighting every single year, year in and year out, to pass an exorbitantly high severance tax to pay back teacher’s unions for voting for him.
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WV Shale Industry Pushes Back Against Severance Tax Increase

What is it about teachers’ unions that makes them so greedy for other people’s money? We’ve told you, for years, about the quest by Pennsylvania’s teachers’ unions (most of them in the Philadelphia area) who want to raid the coffers of Marcellus drillers via a confiscatory severance tax slapped on top of an existing impact tax slapped on top of corporate income taxes. You can never have too many taxes in education-land. That’s the only way they get paid. In West Virginia it’s the same routine. WV already has a severance tax, a nosebleed-high severance tax of 5% (one of the highest in the country). And yet teachers want to increase it–so they can grab that money for moi (see WV Teachers Get Greedy, Want to Boost Already-High Severance Tax). Ever-vigilant, the shale industry is pushing back against the money-grabbers. At a recent “interim meeting” of the WV legislature, Anne Blakenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA), told legislators that the oil and gas industry is not asking for a reduction in the severance tax, but they ARE asking that the rate not go up. Phil Reale from the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association (WV IOGA) said, “We certainly don’t want to be taxed more.” Let’s hope lawmakers were listening and not looking at their smart phones…
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WV Teachers Get Greedy, Want to Boost Already-High Severance Tax

We’ve written, forever, about the quest by Pennsylvania’s teacher’s unions (most of them in the Philadelphia area) who want to raid the coffers of Marcellus drillers via a confiscatory severance tax slapped on top of an existing impact tax slapped on top of corporate income taxes. You can never have too many taxes in education-land. That’s the only way they get paid. Neighboring states like Ohio and West Virginia already have a severance tax. It’s hard comparing apples to apples, but essentially PA drillers pay a bit more than OH drillers, but a whole lot less than WV drillers. The severance tax in OH is 1.25%. In WV the severance tax is a whopping 5%. And yet, amazingly, the teacher’s unions in WV are now clamoring to boost the severance tax even more! They want to boost the tax by 2.5% to 7.5%–which would kill the Marcellus/Utica industry in the state. It would be a death sentence. The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) is on the case, pushing back against this lunacy…
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EmberClear to Pay $31M in Lieu of Taxes for Cadiz, OH Power Plant

Ever hear of a PILOT? No, not the airplane kind. A PILOT is a “payment in lieu of taxes”–a common arrangement for electric generating plants. If such plants paid property taxes at full market value, the taxes would be so insanely high the plants would be uneconomical and therefore wouldn’t get built. So PILOTs are used instead. Such an agreement was recently reached between EmberClear and Harrison County, OH. In September 2016, MDN reported that EmberClear planned to fund and build a new $900 million electric generating plant in Harrison County (see $900M Utica Gas-Fired Electric Plant Coming to Harrison County, OH). The Harrison Hills Power Plant will be fed by Utica Shale gas. EmberClear received approval for the project in June from the Ohio Power Siting Board (see Ohio Approves $900M Harrison County Power Plant in Cadiz, OH). Although construction has not yet begun, another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. EmberClear agreed to pay $31 million in PILOT payments (i.e. taxes) over 15 years, which will help fund the Harrison Hills City School District as well as Harrison County and its municipalities. With a PILOT now in place, the plant will get built, beaucoup payments will get made, and everybody will be happy…
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Cool New Video Debunks/Explains PA Severance Tax Issue

Mark Mathis – Clear Energy Alliance

A killer video on the topic of a severance tax in Pennsylvania has just been published (on Youtube) by the Clear Energy Alliance. The severance tax issue is one that we’ve tracked and written about for years–since Ed “fast Eddie” Rendell was governor. MDN caught up with Mark Mathis, founder of CEA, to talk about his latest video. Mark is an author and documentary film maker, and before that, a television reporter and anchor for ten years. Mark said he’s “a big language guy.” He began tracking issues in the energy industry some 15 years ago. Mark maintains the language we use to talk about energy is wrong–that the public doesn’t really understand. The PA severance tax issue is a perfect example. According to Mark (and the 4 1/2 minute video) PA Gov. Tom Wolf is being disingenuous when he says PA is “the only state without a severance tax.” While technically that’s true, what Wolf and other Harrisburg politicians don’t say is that PA has an “impact fee”–the equivalent of a severance tax. Plus PA has the second highest corporate income tax in the country, while other severance tax states (like Texas) have no corporate income tax. It’s virtually impossible to run an apples to apples comparison when it comes to how much a given company pays in taxes in a specific state. But according to Mark, slapping an additional tax on natural gas production in PA would be a disaster. The short video (which you MUST watch) explains it all in just a few minutes…
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PA IFO Predicts 2018 Impact Tax Will Raise Record High $224 Million

The PA Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) does a pretty good job of guesstimating how much impact fee revenue will get generated in the coming year, based on permit and producing wells activity this year. How good? Last year the IFO predicted that impact fee (equivalent of a severance tax) revenue would be $222 million for 2017 (see IFO Predicts PA Impact Fees for 2017 Will Soar, Near Record High). They weren’t too far off. The state Public Utility Commission, charged with collecting the fee, just disbursed impact fee revenue raised in 2017. The grand total was $210 million (see PA Impact Fee/Tax Hauls in $210M in 2017 – Third Highest Ever). There was $6 million “missing” from that number due to a dispute over what is, and what is not, considered a “stripper well.” If you were to include the $6 million (as the IFO does in their estimates), then 2017 revenue would have been $217 million–not far from IFO’s $222 million estimate. The IFO just released an impact fee update (full copy below) with an outlook for 2018. The IFO predicts next year’s impact fee will generate $224 million in revenue. If that estimate bears out, it would be the highest amount of revenue generated by the fee since its beginning in 2011…
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PA Gov. Wolf Signs On-Time Budget with No Severance Tax

There is nothing “bipartisan” about Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania. He’s a hard-left partisan all the way. Yet this year, for the first time since taking office, he signed a “bipartisan” budget on time–before the June 30 deadline. Wolf practically genuflected before the Republicans who control both the House and Senate in PA. This is the first budget Wolf has signed at all. The previous three annual budgets adopted during Wolf’s tenure were done so without his signature. So why did Wolf practically fall over himself to sign a budget that does NOT include a new severance tax, as he has requested each year since taking office? Simple: He’s running for reelection and wants to appear as if he’s actually governing. He’s attempting to smear a little lipstick on the pig of his awful tenure in office. Question is, will it work? Do people have the attention spans of gnats? Or will they remember the pain and suffering he inflicted by dragging out previous budgets for months? Pennsylvanians should understand that Wolf’s nicey-nice with the budget this year will completely evaporate next year (if he’s reelected). Back will be the hard-left partisan who lives under the lipstick…
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PA Impact Fee/Tax Hauls in $210M in 2017 – Third Highest Ever

Click for larger version

Each June, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the agency charged with keeping tabs on impact fee revenue from shale drillers (PA’s version of a severance tax) releases the final numbers of impact fee revenues and disbursements. Yesterday was the appointed day for 2017. The PUC reports impact fees on natural gas producers in 2017 totaled $209,557,300–the third highest yearly amount of revenue generated since the fee/tax was implemented in 2011. That follows the lowest annual revenue generated from the fee to date last year, for 2016 (see PA PUC Impact Fee Report: Revenue Down Again in 2016). However, 2016 was the low point for drillers drilling new wells–the bottom of the valley in the oil and gas industry. Since mid-2016 we’ve been on an upswing in drilling new wells, which is reflected in 2017 impact fee revenues. Below we include the PUC press release, and screenshots for many of the pretty color pie charts showing topline numbers. What was the #1 county receiving impact fee revenue (meaning the #1 county drilled) in 2017? Once again it was Washington County. The driller paying the most in impact fees in 2017? Range Resources. The municipality receiving the most revenue from impact fees (meaning the most drilled municipality)? Center Township, in Greene County. Here’s the 411 on impact fees (i.e. taxes) raised and spent in PA for 2017…
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PUC Says PA Strippers Reduced 2017 Impact Fee by $6.1 Million

Once again we’re talking about strippers. Uh, stripper *wells* that is. In 2012 Pennsylvania passed the Act 13 drilling law that includes an impact fee on wells targeting shale layers, including the Marcellus. Snyder Brothers, headquartered in PA, drills mostly conventional (vertical only) wells in southwestern PA. In 2011-2012 they drilled 45 vertical-only wells targeting the Marcellus. All 45 of the vertical-only wells were fracked. Initially those wells produced more than 90 thousand cubic feet per day (Mcf/day), but by December of the year in which they were drilled, the wells produced less than 90 Mcf/day. The way the 2012 Act 13 law is written, if a well produces less than 90 Mcf/day during “any” month it is considered a stripper well and exempt from paying the impact fee. The state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) assessed the fee anyway because for 11 months the wells produced more than 90 Mcf/day, arguing the word “any” is not a get-out-tax-jail-free card. Snyder Bros. sued and after an appeal of the case, Snyder Bros. won the case in March 2017, exempting those wells from paying impact fees (see PA Court Says Snyder Bros Wells are Strippers, No Impact Fees Due). That sent the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) into a tizzy with claims the Act 13 impact fees are now in jeopardy. So the PUC appealed the case to the PA Supreme Court. The Supremes heard arguments in the case in April (see PA Supreme Court Takes a Close Look at Strippers…as in Wells). The PUC released its full impact fee revenue generated and disbursed report yesterday (see today’s lead story). The PUC reports that not only are the fees from the Snyder wells missing from the total, but fees for some wells from other drillers as well–some 318 wells in all. Those other drillers cite the Snyder Bros. case as evidence they don’t owe money on what they consider to be stripper wells. In fact, when you total it all up, the PUC says the impact fee revenue for 2017 would have been ~$6.1 million higher if the “missing” fees from those 318 wells were part of the mix…
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No Severance Tax in This Year’s Massive, Way-Too-High PA Budget

This year’s Pennsylvania budget deal is different from the previous three such annual budgets. One way it’s not different is that this year’s budget once again hits a new high–a massively bloated, morbidly obese $32.7 billion. Although the budget does not include any new taxes, it does increase spending in a number of areas, including “education” (i.e. teacher’s unions). Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf once again asked for a Marcellus-killing severance tax this year, but he didn’t really mean it. He knew he wouldn’t get one. So Wolf brokered a deal with House and Senate Republicans that leaves out a severance tax. In the previous three budgets Wolf demanded a severance tax and delayed adopting each budget by months, in an act of petulance and temper tantrum. Since this is an election year and Wolf is up for reelection, he decided to forgo the histrionics over a severance tax. So, we’ve dodged the tax bullet once again. However, if Wolf is reelected, expect him to double down and perhaps even shut down state government in order to get a severance tax. The tax battle will be super-nasty next year, you can count on it. Meanwhile, the Senate is due to pass the budget on Friday, and Wolf will sign it soon after…
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Wolf Caves on Severance Tax – Admits He Won’t Get It Passed

Yesterday Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf spoke at a Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon, where Wolf tried to fleece business owners and managers into thinking he’s on their side. (Nice try, but no cigar.) Wolf said he thinks the state will have an on-time budget this year, because he doesn’t plan to drag it out for months and months as he has in the past. Wolf did not mention the severance tax during his talk before the Chamber, but in discussions following his talk, Wolf “acknowledged…that he is unlikely to secure it [a severance tax] in his first term amid resistance by House Republican leaders.” This is huge! Wolf is admitting defeat, throwing in the towel–that he won’t get the tax, at least not this year. However, before we jump up and down to rejoice, know this: Wolf believes he’s going to win reelection, and then he intends to go after the severance tax again–with a vengeance. Which is why it’s so important that he not win a second term. But if he does win (perish the thought!), a Republican-controlled House remains our only firewall against a Marcellus-killing severance tax intended to raise billions for Philadelphia teachers’ unions…
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WV Teachers Want Higher Severance Tax – For Themselves

No wonder the teachers in Philadelphia think that the money in drillers’ pockets actually belongs to them. Because in neighboring West Virginia, it does! At least some of the money. WV held its final public hearing (#21) as part of a statewide “listening tour” about how the state should fix (i.e. pay for) its insurance program for public employees. Most of the speakers at the 21 complain-fests were teachers. Their #1 preferred solution to “fixing” (paying for) better benefits is to boost the severance tax on natural gas higher than the current 5% (already one of the highest rates in the country). Such an increase would, of course, kill new drilling. And sooner or later previously drilled wells on which current severance tax revenues are based wind down, leaving teachers back at square one, with no extra money to pay for better insurance plans. Here’s more on the story of WV teachers looking to take money out of the pockets of a single industry, in order to grab other people’s hard-earn money for themselves…
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2 Bills Affecting Utica Shale Head to Gov Kasich for Signature

OH Gov. John Kasich

A pair of bills recently passed the Ohio State legislature and have gone to Gov. John Kasich’s desk for his signature. Both bills affect companies in the oil and gas space, in particular those drilling in the Utica Shale. One bill, House Bill (HB) 430, tightens up the tax code, what is and what is not allowed as deductions for drilling companies. Ohio state auditors have taken advantage of unclear language to aggressively go after oil and gas companies over legitimate tax breaks they receive under Ohio law (to not pay taxes on equipment used directly in producing oil and gas). Lawmakers want to end the tax witch hunts by clearing up language. They did so back in 2016, but Kasich and Democrats successfully spun the issue as a “tax break” under which up to $264 million would have to be refunded to Big Oil. Total lie. But Kasich vetoed that bill and it died (see OH Gov Kasich Vetoed Misnamed ‘Tax Relief’ for Utica Drillers). The bill is back, in a different form, and sent to Kasich for a signature. Will he sign it this time? The second bill, House Bill (HB) 225, addresses the issue of plugging some of the estimated 600 orphan wells in the Buckeye State. HB 225 triples the amount of money set aside to cap orphan wells (money which comes from Ohio’s severance tax, paid for by oil and gas producers). The bill also “creates a more streamlined and efficient process for identifying and plugging” orphan wells. The amazing thing about HB 225 is that both Big Green groups and the drilling industry support it! We predict a quick signature on this one…
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PA Democrats Float Free College – Paid for by Marcellus Tax

PA State Sen. Vincent Hughes

Another mind-blowingly dumb Socialist/Communist plan is being floated by Democrats in PA (what’s new?). PA Dem state legislators yesterday announced new bills that would give families living in PA the right to send their kids to one of PA’s 14 state-run colleges for free–lock, stock and barrel. Free tuition. Free room and board. Free condoms. Free everything. IF the family makes less than $48,000 per year. Families making between $48,000-$110,000 per year get free tuition and fees only (they have to pay for Junior and Missy’s room and board). The “free” plan, according to Philadelphia area State Sen. Vincent Hughes, would cost around $800 million–and he thinks the Marcellus Shale industry should pay for it. That’s Hughes’ answer for everything–just tax the Marcellus industry. But Hughes has a little problem–he’s already promised Marcellus severance tax revenue to Philadelphia teachers’ unions–unions from which he has received $635,000 in campaign contributions (see PA Dem Senator from Philly Intros Bill to Steal Marcellus Money). In the unlikely event a severance tax is enacted in PA, it certainly won’t be enough to fund both K-12 education and pay for “free” college. How about this Sen. Hughes: We think the money for free college should come from taxes on government-paid workers instead. People like YOU. Why don’t we use YOUR money to pay for this “wonderful” plan?…
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PA House Speaker Turzai Nukes Wolf’s Severance Tax Proposal

Speaker of the PA House, Mike Turzai – credit: Wikipedia

A few weeks ago Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Dennis Davin, wrote an embarrassing editorial published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (see Once Again Wolf Pushes DCED Sec. to Support Severance Tax). Davin knows that a high severance tax will drive Marcellus drillers out of the state–but (we conclude) he wants to keep his job for another four years, so he goes out as the spear-catcher for his boss, lefty Gov. Tom Wolf. PA House Speaker Mike Turzai is an impressive guy. He’s always stood, steadfast, with the Marcellus industry, against Wolf’s insane plan to tax the industry out of existence. Turzai sent the Post-Gazette a column of his own, to counter the inanities of Davin’s column–and wonder of wonders, they published it! Turzai does a masterful job with his response to Davin. Our favorite part is where Turzai obliterate’s Davin’s claims about the “minimal” revenue raised by PA’s impact fee. In PA, instead of a severance tax, the legislature passed an impact fee (i.e., tax) in 2012, which has raised far more than the severance tax in neighboring states. For example, in 2017, Ohio raised $36.7 million via its severance tax. In 2017, West Virginia raised $69 million from its severance tax. In 2017, PA raised a whopping $173.3 million from its impact fee. Tell us again, Mr. Davin, about the “superiority” of a severance tax!…
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Once Again Wolf Pushes DCED Sec. to Support Severance Tax

Dennis Davin – Sec. DCED

Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Dennis Davin, is once again doing what he’s told, in order to keep his job. The DCED’s job is to promote new business to locate in PA, not drive it away. Davin is a bright guy. He knows that higher taxes drive businesses away. But he works for the most liberal governor in America (well, maybe second most, next to Andrew Cuomo). And when Wolf says “Jump!”, Davin has to ask, “How high?” That’s the only explanation we can think of for why Davin continues to support an insane severance tax on top of the existing impact tax–a double tax that would, along with the already-high corporate income tax in PA, force PA into the role of having the highest effective oil and gas taxes in the country. Davin wrote an editorial recently appearing in the leftist Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, supporting his boss’ insane plan for a severance tax. It’s not the first time Davin has had to stoop this low. He did the same thing last year (see PA DCED Sec. Promotes Wolf’s Marcellus-Killing Severance Tax). Poor Dennis…
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