Pa. gubernatorial candidates renew debate over taxing Marcellus Shale production

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     Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation has six drill rigs running in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.  This rig is the most recent as of October 2013 in Kingsley, Pa.(Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation has six drill rigs running in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. This rig is the most recent as of October 2013 in Kingsley, Pa.(Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

    The race for governor in Pennsylvania is reviving an old debate about whether the state should tax the Marcellus Shale industry.

    Whether it’s called a “severance tax,” an “extraction tax,” or a “drillers’ tax,” the principle is the same: to bring in revenue for the state’s general fund through a charge on natural gas production.

    Pennsylvania remains the only drilling state that doesn’t impose such a tax on oil and gas developers. Since 2012, the state has charged companies a flat “impact fee” for every well to support the communities that host the drilling. But is Pennsylvania getting shortchanged? That’s the question the candidates are debating this election season.

    The race is also raising questions about how much of the state should be open for drilling, including state parks and forests.

    All four Democratic candidates support continuing a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands, even if it means fewer royalties for the state.

    Voters will also decide who represents Pennsylvania in the Delaware River watershed, which has become a highly politicized battleground over hydraulic fracturing. Drilling is currently on hold in the parts of the Marcellus Shale that lie above the watershed, but the candidates disagree on what should happen there in the future.

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