By Stephanie Catarino Wissman
In state after state, energy was a winning issue in the midterm elections. Candidates who agreed on little else often found common ground in championing America’s job-creating energy revolution.
In West Virginia, Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant made a point of saying “It’s not about Democrat versus Republican… I disagree with the president on energy.”
That’s one thing she had in common with her Republican opponent, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, whose winning campaign made the same point, stating that “Our energy jobs are under assault from President Obama’s administration.”
Bipartisan support for key energy issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, hydraulic fracturing and increased energy development was so widespread, it was difficult for energy-supporting voters to go wrong.
In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, voters had a choice of two candidates who understand the importance of energy development to our state. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf supports hydraulic fracturing and says that the “Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s economic future.”
Pennsylvania voters agree.
In an August survey, 72 percent of registered Keystone State voters voiced support for increased production of domestic oil and natural gas resources, and 70 percent said they would be more likely to support a candidate in November’s election who supports increasing the country’s energy infrastructure and producing more oil and natural gas here in the U.S. – including 61 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Independents.
Reviewing the economic data, it’s easy to understand why. The natural gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state, contributes $34.7 billionannually to the Pennsylvania economy, and saved our school districts over $45.5 million on energy costs last year — enough to employ over 480 teachers.
Priority number one for Gov-elect Tom Wolf should be encouraging even more energy-driven economic growth. Yet his proposal for a new severance tax threatens to stifle energy production and the jobs that go with it.
Pennsylvania already has a local impact tax in place for every shale drilling site in the state, and it’s distributed more than $630 million to communities since 2012 – including more than $224 million just in 2014.
That’s in addition to over $2.1 billion in state and local taxes generated by the shale energy industry. The revenue supports road and bridge improvements, water and sewer projects, local housing initiatives, environmental programs and rehabilitation of greenways.
Revenues are allocated to state agencies that have done an excellent job setting and maintaining high environmental standards for drilling operations. The remaining 60 percent of the impact tax revenue stays within local communities, while the rest goes to the Marcellus Legacy Fund towards statewide initiatives.
Pennsylvania’s economy has flourished under the current system. At least 1,347 businesses, spread across all 18 of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, are part of the larger oil and natural gas supply chain.
Unnecessary, duplicative taxes could jeopardize that economy-sustaining success. We can do more with the right policies if Gov.-elect Wolf chooses forward-looking pro-energy policies rather than putting more lands off-limits.