Gas drillers may pay to help revive solar industry

natural-gas-well-pennsylvaniaThe Stanley News and Press

By John Finnerty

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to tax gas drillers will pump millions of dollars into schools, but it could also help subsidize alternative energy sources like wind and solar.

Wolf proposes borrowing $675 million for economic development projects, which will be paid down by $55 million from the extraction tax each year.
The governor plans to put one-third of that bond toward energy – including $100 million for alternative energy and $50 million directly aimed at solar power.

“We a true energy powerhouse,” said John Hanger, Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning. “This is a smart investment that will build on our strengths. We believe we can leverage that to create more jobs and more energy that reduces pollution.”

Critics question the wisdom of taxing gas drillers to subsidize alternative energy companies that can’t compete without government handouts.

“I find it a little confusing that we’re going to take an industry that never asked for help, and we’re going to tax them instead of helping them,” said Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming County, chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “And we’re going to use that money for unproven industries at the risk of taxing the gas industry to the point that they scale back.”

A spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents gas drillers, said the industry doesn’t really care what Wolf wants to do with revenues from the severance tax. It just opposes the tax.

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