Winning Selling the Future

In Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG — Members of Gov. Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission left their first meeting Friday with plenty to think about during the four months they have to recommend how state can best stoke the economic potential of natural-gas drilling and stave off environmental problems within the constraints the Republican governor has imposed. [...]

Cawley said the panelists are likely to consider the prospect of empowering local governments to levy an "impact fee" to help pay for highway repairs and other effects of natural-gas drilling.

Local governments will have to demonstrate a clear need for an impact fee before it would be seriously considered as one of the recommendations they must make to the governor by July, he said.

"It will be a discussion point," he told reporters. "We want to understand what the actual impact is."

But a statewide severance tax "is off the table," Cawley said emphatically. "It is not something that is going to be considered by us." [...]

But Pennsylvania has left a number of protections undone, some lawmakers say.

Some lawmakers want to increase the minimum distance between Marcellus Shale wells to minimize the environmental impact on drilling regions. Some also want to expand the buffer that is required between shale wells and wetlands or water sources.

In addition, Pennsylvania's $1,000 per day penalty on drillers for violating state regulations lag many other states. The $25,000 per-company insurance bond that the state requires to plug abandoned wells is out of date, as well, since plugging a single well can cost as much as $100,000.

At the top of the industry's wish list is a controversial provision called pooling, which could be used to force holdout landowners, under certain conditions, to lease their below-ground gas rights, and limits on the ways that municipal zoning ordinances could affect drilling activity.

And, in Wyoming
In a move that is likely to go down as one of the largest energy policy blunders of the Obama years, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday announced that his office was opening the door for 2.35 billion tons of new coal mining operations in Wyoming's stretch of the Powder River Basin.

It's all about the money, of course and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Ken Salazar pressed the green light for more dirty energy development instead of funding renewables.

The Powder River Basin (PBR), like most coal producing regions in the county, is not certified as such. Meaning, mining operations in the area do not entirely fall under the rubric of the Federal Coal Leasing Amendments Act of 1976 (FCLAA). As such, taxpayers are being hoodwinked into believing leasing our public lands to Big Coal is good for the government's piggy bank.

It's not. Here's the story. During the 1970s there was a public lands coal-leasing moratorium put in place for the United States because of wild mining speculation and lack of transparency. The moratorium ended in 1980, and then acting Interior Secretary James Watt began selling coal leases all over the Powder River Basin. Then, in the late 1980s, PBR was decertified as a coal-producing region; therefore leases on public lands would no longer have to follow the guidelines offered up in FCLAA.

I get the idea that if you want to attract businesses to your state vs. some neighboring state, you might want to consider a tax break to entice them to set up shop where you're at. But you can only dig for gas and coal in very limited areas around the country, and if you have something like the Marcellus shale--THE MARCELLUS FUCKING SHALE--or the Powder River Basin under your feet, you could probably come up with a law that requires companies to buy every resident in the state a vacation home in the location of their choosing so that they can temporarily escape the noise and dirty water and they'd still clamor to develop those resources. It boggles the mind how this is happening at both the state and the federal level.