What has Matt Baker done to protect Pennsylvania from the negative impacts of the current underregulated gas rush?

Below is a letter written to the Wellsboro Gazette. Voting day is coming up quickly and here is an opportunity for those of us who are unhappy with the decisions Matt Baker has been making in regards to the gas rush. The fact that Matt Baker has not had, and will not otherwise, have anyone running against him again means he can be extremely wishy-washy on this subject as well as others. At this point he doesn’t have to take any position and can play all sides in his favor without actually having to be educated about the subjects economic, environmental or health issues that are arising. AND, if he has made an effort to educate himself about them on his own (not from the oil and gas industry spokespersons) then he is truly more interested in selling out to a huge industry that is already bloated with money and getting fatter off our resources.  Please read the letter if you are curious or are concerned that you are not being fairly represented by your local representative.

For those who haven't seen my letter in the Wellsboro Gazette.

I would really like to get the Democratic nomination by write
in since otherwise I need to collect nearly 500 signatures to get
on the ballot in November.

 http://www.tiogapublishing.com/articles/2010/04/29/opinion/letters/doc4bd8a0836c297146754097.txt

Why me?

Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 4:15 PM CDT
To the editor;

Why am I, a registered Green, asking Democrats to write me
in as their candidate for state representative on May 18?
In a nutshell, to keep Matt Baker from once again running as
a Democrat as well as a Republican. But if you want an issue,
how about the upcoming devastation of much of the state?

What has Matt Baker done to protect Pennsylvania from the
negative impacts of the current underregulated gas rush?
Despite ample evidence of problems from places like Texas,
Colorado and Wyoming, as well as Dimock, Hickory, Bradford,
Waterville and Fall Brook right here in Pennsylvania, Mr Baker
continues peddling industry’s pipe dreams that we’re all going
to be millionaires and that there is nothing to worry about.
He and every other elected official from County Commissioner to
President have not just let us down but sold us out to a
rapacious industry. Who should decide whether Tioga County
is turned into an industrial sacrifice zone, gas industry
executives or the people who live here?

I am not so naive as to expect to derail Mr. Baker’s well
oiled political machine, but I do believe that if enough
voters, both Republican and Democrat, made the effort to write
me in, he might be reminded that he is supposed to represent the
people rather than rich and powerful corporations.

John Kesich

Millerton

House Bill 2235 Letter

Here’s is a sample letter to my local representative. Please feel free to copy and paste it if you are not sure how to write your own. Make sure you send it to your correct representative.

Representative Matthew Baker
Ryan Office Building, Room 115
451 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2068

Dear Representative Baker,

I urge you to vote for the Save Our Forests legislation (HB 2235). We
need this legislation to put a freeze on new leases for natural gas
drilling on our precious state parks and forests, and to ensure that
the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources can sustainability
manage these lands.

-  Already one-third, or 700,000 acres, of state forest lands are open
for natural gas drilling. We should not be forcing open any more lands
just to balance the state budget. A severance tax on gas drilling
should be pursued instead.

-  Our local industries like outdoor tourism, recreation and
sustainable timbering rely on well-managed, protected lands in order to
thrive. Gas drilling operations would threaten these industries that
have been thriving here for generations.

-  Drilling for gas involves clear cutting fields and trees to install
enormous well pads, as well as building access roads and pipelines. In
many cases, this infrastructure has yet to be constructed and will mean
significant disruption to our otherwise well managed forests.

Pennsylvania is to no stranger to environmental destruction at the
hands of a booming industry. Our landscapes are still scarred from our
coal and steel legacies. We cannot again sacrifice the long term health
and well being of our Commonwealth for short-term gain.

Please be a hero for our state forests and vote for HB 2235.

Sincerely,

(Your name and address)

SRBC working with East Resources

http://srbc.net/whatsnew/Newsletters/article_32.asp

Here is a link to an update from the SRBC (on their website) about how they are working with East Resources to put in water monitoring stations. East resources has offered to pay for part of this system as well.

It is nice to see some of the gas companies and the various watershed organizations working together, finally! Now, if we could just get the state legislators on the same page….I was thoroughly disgusted when I received an updated mailing from Matt Baker the other day. He states that he could not support certain parts of the state budget because it included raising some taxes and that would bring a hardship to PA residents. I find it ironic that he also found it impossible to vote for a severance tax from the gas industries, which would be bringing in an amount of money that might have been equivalent to the amount that taxes were going to be raised. Over all I felt that his statements reflected only half of what went on in Harrisburg during the budget meetings; the half that makes him look good to people who are still ignorant or uneducated about the Marcellus Shale. His mailing also had no mention of the gas boom in PA and how it has effected our budget, amongst other things. Pretending something doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away.

We’re All Voting for No-Sylvania if We Remain Silent

A friend sent me this article this morning. I liked it and even though a lot of what makes people agree with one side or the other comes from opinions as to what is best for the state of PA…..there are too many legislators who can only see a resource in dollar signs. Yesterday I called my state representatives, Scarnati and Baker, to let both of them know that I was supportive of a severance tax and wanted the money from that tax to be put into a budget where the majority of those funds would be distributed amongst the agencies that care for our natural resources. DCNR, The Fish and Game Commission and other organizations that act as stewards for our forests and streams. I spoke to each representative’s  secretary and neither were very helpful. Both made a note of my concern but with an air of unimportance and Matt baker’s secretary tried to tell me that they would not be voting on any such bill that might make amendments to a House bill that would distribute money in the way I have described above, but there is one and I’m not the only “lunatic tree hugger” that knows about it.
Our legislators are doing us a huge dis-service by not listening to our voices and opinions and they’re intent seems to be to sell out the PA Wilds to the gas and oil industry to make a quick buck. There are a few folks in politics doing their best to change this tide but they may not be enough. They are making an effort to fight for all of us. To keep our rights of land and tax money as ours, the people of Pennsylvania, and we should do all we can to help them out by calling or writing to our local representative, Matt Baker, and make sure he understands that we care about our land and our water. Make sure he knows that we know what’s going on and we do have an opinion and if he wants to actually represent the people in his district, as his title proclaims, then he needs to listen and think and do his job and not just vote with the flow when he gets to Harrisburg.
By Jan Jarrett (President and CEO Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
Published: September 30, 2009

If the state budget negotiators have their way, the core of what makes Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania – our forests, which gave us our very name – will be destroyed. All because our elected officials are unable to stand up to the million dollar lobbyists of the gas and oil industry.

It all started when Gov. Rendell released his original budget, way back in February. As part of the austerity budget, Rendell said that these bad economic times called for new sources of revenue. And one of the sources Rendell was offering was to charge a severance fee on the natural gas that was being extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation.

This was hardly a radical stance. Every other major gas-producing state has such a fee, including the radical outposts of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. And the multi-national corporations who dominate the drilling industry happily pay the fee in all those other states. So the severance fee was a no brainer, at least initially. The only disagreement was where the money would go – all to the general fund, or with some reserved for the local communities that “host” the drillers, the environment, and our fish and boat and game commissions.

But that was a million dollars ago. Once the tassel-shoed lobbyists of Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, Conoco Phillips and other drilling-related business interests got their sticky fingers into the budget negotiations, suddenly these gas drillers were an “infant industry” and any severance tax would kill them as sure as a stake through their cold hearts. It turns out that the lobbyists were really good at their jobs. When the doors to the backroom blew open, the budget proposal not only had no severance fee, it required the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to give a sweetheart deal to the industry, opening up huge swaths of our state forest to drilling.

And what a sweetheart deal it is. With natural gas prices at a record low, DCNR may well be forced to sell drilling leases in our state forest lands at rock bottom prices. And not just a few leases, either. Because the proposed budget relies on drilling in our state forests to bring in $65 million in just the first year, and $180 million next year, as many as 200,000 acres would have to be leased out, just for the drilling pads and immediate area.

What does that mean in real trees? Of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land, only 1.5 million are within the Marcellus Shale region. More than 660,000 of those acres are already available for drilling and 595,000 are environmentally sensitive areas that cannot be leased. That only leaves approximately 225,000 acres of state forest land that could be leased. So leasing 200,000 acres would mean very few trees would be left standing.

The actual amount of forest disturbed would actually be much greater. Building drilling pads means cutting roads through the forest – roads to be used by hundreds of trucks hauling the millions of gallons of water the special deep drilling and rock fracturing needs to reach the Marcellus Shale gas. And pipelines must be built across the forest to carry the gas to market.

So the state forest will soon look more like the state checkerboard, with a few trees separating the drilling operations.

But just turning our state into No-Sylvania isn’t the end of the mischief the budget negotiators have planned. Leasing the state forest to the gas industry will not bring in enough money to make up our budget shortfall. For that, the negotiators are turning to the folks with really deep pockets: bingo players and concert goers. The budget proposal calls for new taxes not on the multi-national gas companies, but on small games of chance – like the bingo games the local volunteer fire departments hold to raise money, and on theatre and concert tickets. In short, the folks without lobbyists.

This plan to destroy our forests and rob the poor to protect the rich multi-national gas industry can be stopped, by only with enough citizen outrage that the legislators turn this bad deal down. All in all, that would be better than having to come up with a new name for our state.

(PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998.)

You Have a Voice so Use it!

Hello folks!

I don’t like to tell other people what to do and this blog is supposed to offer information and not too of my blabber….but if you have time today please, please call Senator Scarnati’s office and let him know that you want him to support Amendment 3916 to House Bill 1489 (the severance tax bill). I just called this morning and it was very simple and easy to do. In fact you are welcome to call all your state reps and let them know the same thing. You’ll find a link to a page with that info on it below.

This is the number for his office. 717.787.7084. The secretary will answer and all you have to do is tell her your name, where you are calling from and let her know which amendment (use the number above) you want him to support for which bill (also using the number from above). There is a good chance this might pass this week and if they do not hear from us then it will be tough for him to represent us, which is what he is supposed to be doing.  If you call Matt Baker’s office they will tell you that there is nothing certain to be voted on this week. That may very well be since they are still ironing out the budget, but you can still call and let them know where you stand on a severance tax. If you want more info about the severance tax please check out this site.

http://www.pennfuture.org/media_sd_detail.aspx?MediaID=1058
Here are some details on this amendment and bill that are being passed.

Please call your state representative ASAP. Tell them to support Amendment 3916 to House Bill 1489 (the severance tax bill). This amendment by Rep. Dave Levdansky substantially improves the bill by increasing support for the Environmental Stewardship Fund (aka Growing Greener) and the Fish and Game Commissions in the long term.

A vote in the House could happen this week so please contact your representative soon. Go to the upper right corner of http://www.legis.state.pa.us to find your legislators.

Detail:

House Bill 1489 presently would establish the natural gas severance tax and dedicate 15% of it to Growing Greener, which is running out of money. The Fish and Game Commissions would receive an additional 2% each for habitat and public access work. Amendment 3916 would increase the dedicated amounts to 20% for Growing Greener and 3% for each of the commissions.

(Amendment 3916 is sensitive to present budget shortfalls by directing more severance tax revenue to the state’s General Fund this year and in 2010-11. This is a far better way to deal with the shortfalls than rushing to lease more publicly owned State Forest for gas drilling without respect for good science and principles of sustainable management of the forest.)

For general information on the natural gas severance tax and drilling impacts, go to http://landandwater.org.
Thanks to all who attended the waterdogs meeting last night and thank you for calling. If you need a phone stop by my store and you are welcome to use the shop phone, free of charge!

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