Failing to Pass a Severance Tax…

Below some comments from the press and PennFuture about the state of the State’s budget sans a tax on drilling.

Inaction on drill tax has a bad odor to it
Sunday, October 24, 2010
By Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

…. Its [PA’s Legislature] latest gaffe is passing on collecting tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the oil and gas industry, which is making huge money in our state (and passing a good bit of it around Harrisburg). Nearly all of the nation’s natural gas comes out of the ground in states that have severance taxes, but we won’t have any….

Bill Holland is associate editor of Gas Daily, which covers the natural gas market in North America. He said, “Industry analysts have never been very concerned” about paying a tax in Pennsylvania. Even the House bill passed largely by Democrats last month wasn’t that big a deal, Mr. Holland said. “They expect a tax eventually — like there is everywhere else drilling occurs,” he said.

It’s not as if profit margins are low. Mr. Holland pointed to Chesapeake Energy’s recent statement that its break-even selling price for drilling Marcellus Shale gas is $2.45 per thousand cubic feet, and Friday’s closing price for gas futures was $3.35. Now drillers don’t have to worry about even a pin scratch on that pretty price spread….

To read the full opinion online, click here:

PennFuture’s Drilling Fact of the Day

October 22, 2010
The refusal of the Pennsylvania Senate leadership to consider a severance tax bill leaves Pennsylvania citizens in the lurch, with a $70 million hole in this year’s state budget, and with local communities holding the bag on covering the public safety and social costs that drillers bring with them….

To read the full PennFuture Drilling Fact of the Day, click here:


Stephanie Hallowich in National Geographic

Stephanie Hallowich has had one of the worst experiences with natural gas drilling in PA and she has also been one of the loudest voices, speaking out for her family and others in the same situations. Her story was picked up by National Geographic and can be found at the below link.

She had this to say about it:

Our story went on National Geographic today.  It will take awhile to get through.  I needed a few tissues to get through it.  Please feel free to forward it to as many people as possible!

I was fortunate enough to meet Stephanie earlier this year while visiting and touring Ron Gulla’s farm in Washington County, PA. We stopped by Stephanie’s home and I was horrified by the smell first off and the close proximity of  dehydrator tanks and a compression station, not to mention the wells…all within a 100 yards or less of her home. I couldn’t imagine being her family or having children trying to play in their backyard near this industry. You can find out more about Stephanie and her family at the above article from National Geographic or check out Faces of Frackland.


The Right to Know!

Do you know how to file a “Right to Know” request? Do you know why you might want to know how to do this? Since the gas drilling in Pennsylvania has taken off at full speed many people are finding the “Open Records Law” , also known as the “Right to Know Law”, a necessary way to gain information from PA state agencies in regards to state funded research studies, procedures and incidents/accidents that have taken place and/or correspondence between a state agency (like the DEP) and a drilling company.
Passed by PA legislators in 2008, the “Right to Know Law” requires that local or state agency records be presumed public. This was done to shift the burden of proof from the public to the government. So now the government must offer a compelling reason why a record need be kept secret. An example of this would be to prevent the violation of a government employee’s personal privacy or the compromising of government security. This last example of security is a very broad term that has been used  to create a gray area where government agencies are choosing what they deem to be information that needs to be secured from the public. This is in part how many of us, myself included, who have been active in seeking information about the drilling industries have been added to the Homeland Security government watch lists, but that topic will have to be a soap box for another day.
You can find “Right to Know” request forms at this website and you can submit forms online or by email to
If you are mailing your form the old school way, via USPS, you can send it to:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Office of Open Records
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225
Some details to know after you’ve filed for information. The Office of Open Records has 5 days to reply to your request. This does not mean they need to provide you with the information you requested within those 5 days, and they often respond with a letter explaining that they have 30 more days to get the information you asked for to you. I suppose they have a lot of files to search through and a lot of folks filing for info at this point….After the initial 5 days and after the secondary 30 days they must provide you with the requested info or you can then file an appeal from the same site, The appeal must be filed within 15 days of the mailing days of the agencies response of within 15 days of the agencies missed deadline to respond to your request.
I know many of you have filed for information and there have been a lot of questions about how much time the Open Records Office actually has to get back to you with information. I hope this helps to clear some of that up and encourages those of you who are unfamiliar with this process to participate in it if you are seeking information about yourself or incidents in your area.
Here’s some helpful info to get you started.
What agencies can you request information from?
The Right to Know Law applies to all state agencies (DEP, DCNR, Labor and Industry, etc) the PA General Assembly (Senate and House of Representative) and state-related institutions, such as Penn State University. It also applies to the finacial records of PA courts and to all local agencies, including town councils, water and sewer authorities, school boards and zoning boards.
Example of records that are public: Name, title and salary of public officials and employees. Finalized agency meeting minutes. Communicatins between lobbyists and legislators. 911 time response logs, Internal emails.
Example of records that are not public: Social Security, driver license or employee numbers. Personal financial information. Autopsy report information other than name, cause and manner of death. Home addresses of law enforcement and judges, etc.

Ya’ll Get Together Now, Ya Hear?

Today I attended the Conservation PA event in Camp Hill, PA. I was sitting in the conference room among the other 100 or so attendees and trying to remember when I had first heard of the Marcellus Shale, or the term fracking. When I couldn’t dig up a memory of the beginning of my relationship with natural gas drilling in PA I realized how much of the last 2 years of my life have been entwined with this resource and the people whose lives it has been effecting.
While listening to the President of Penn Futures discuss the upcoming political battle for regulations and PA rulemaking in regards to natural gas drilling, I looked around me and studied the faces of others who were engaged in their own community fights against these energy giants. It was obvious from their eager listening responses that they were ready to take action and hoped to return home with new skills to use in their day to day battles with contaminated water, bad land leases, destroyed roadways and right to know laws. Somewhere in my head I was asking myself why this turnout wasn’t greater in numbers? I soon realized that each of these people represented their own communities and action groups and were intending to share the knowledge they would glean from todays event with those communities and groups. It was inspiring to meet other everyday people who had taken the time out of their lives to form a group of concerned citizens, just the way I had over a year ago.
Since moving to south central PA from north central PA I have felt out of touch with the current events of gas drilling. I have also become aware of how many PA citizens are living in areas where drilling is not happening and for this reason they are ignorant of the many problems and potential devastation this industry brings to our state. I am also encourage by how many of them, when given knowledge (the truth if you will) about this drilling process and all that surrounds it, able and ready to work together to a hopefully better end than what has been a very short-sighted and shaky beginning.
Keep on the sunny side.