Montgomery County State Representative Marcy Toepel says she has visited two natural gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale across Northern Pennsylvania, and she finds the results impressive. “The economic boon up there is real. Last year, according to Penn State, it brought in more than $1 billion in revenue. It’s created more than 72,000 jobs, I believe the Penn State study said.”
Toepel and State Representative Mike Vereb, who also has part of Montgomery County in his district, say they oppose an extraction tax on the drilling companies, but Vereb says he could support an impact fee to address environmental concerns.
“We don’t need another Centralia. We don’t need the suffering that went on up there. I know that’s fire, but the water issues are serious. They are paying taxes and the companies are building training centers to train Pennsylvanians. There is no tax incentive like Comcast had to build downtown.”
Centralia is the Columbia County, Pennsylvania coal boom town that turned into a ghost town as a result of an underground coal mine fire that has burned for most of the last half-century. A third Montgomery County State Representative, Matt Bradford, says he agrees with Vereb to a point, but he believes the drillers should pay the extraction tax.
“Exxon-Mobil employees absolutely pay income tax to the Commonwealth, but when they take our natural resources from under our ground they endanger our drinking water and put an unbelievable strain on our infrastructure. They need to pay their fair share.”
The big controversy is over a process called “fracking,” where water and chemicals are pumped into the ground under pressure to break up the shale and get to the gas. Bradford is a Democrat, while Vereb and Toepel are Republicans, and all three appeared Tuesday on the WNPV talk program Comment Please by Univest.