Pa. House begins debating natural gas drilling tax

Natural gas drillers (Kim Paynter/WHYY)

Natural gas drillers (Kim Paynter/WHYY)

House lawmakers have begun moving a natural severance tax through their chamber.

It’s a major priority for Democrats, who have been trying unsuccessfully to pass one for a decade.

But it’s slow going — the bill is saddled with well over 300 amendments.

Along with Democrats, the tax is championed by a coalition of moderate, largely southeastern Republicans.

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GOP Representative Kate Harper, of Montgomery County, is one of the most vocal advocates.

“Members,” Harper told colleagues in her floor testimony, “we’re broke. We just passed a budget that borrowed over $1.5 billion for operating funds.”

The bill is projected to raise around $100 million a year

Lawmakers spent several hours debating amendments. They only managed to get through a handful before running out the clock.

But the ones that passed would make significant changes to speed up the state’s environmental permitting process — something the natural gas industry favors.

Debate is expected to resume Tuesday.

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