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.

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.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.