With the Presidential election upon us many forget that there are other political offices up for grabs. A seemingly overlooked race in Pennsylvania this year’s is for the Senate seat currently held by Bob Casey. In 2006 this was a hotly contested seat which gained a large amount of national attention for an off-year election, mainly due to former Senator Rick Santorum statements equating homosexuality to beastiality. With the expansion of extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus-Shale deposit and the Govenor’s mansion changing political affiliations since the last election, the winner of this years Senatorial race will have considerable influence on the long term future of the state ecology.
From an economic standpoint, hydraulic fracturing or “Fracking” has brought in over $200 million. This is due to impact fees generated by Act 13, signed by Governor Tom Corbett ($1.3 million to Philadelphia, no fracking in Philly, yet). $200 million is no small amount, but this fee only applies to “unconventional wells” while revising environmental protections and, perhaps most importantly, restricting the rights of local authorities on those drilling in their communities.
So even if you are not a fan of hydraulic fracturing from an environmental front, the loss of income from taxing the billions of dollars about to be generated from drilling has to be bothered by the rest of us actually paying taxes.
Oh, and tuitions.
Govenor Corbett has shown a preference for the oil companies that helped elect him by opposing moves to collect taxes from them. This while cutting funding to public education. Learning institutions from elementary schools all the way up to Temple University and Penn State. face huge budget shortfalls. Last week Gov. Corbett fired the state parks director, John Norbeck. The Sierra Club belives this was most likely for his opposition to the increasing use of public lands. That same week the Govenor sign into law Senate Bill 367 allowing drilling on land owned by state or the states system of higher education.
In short, drilling on Penn State campus is on the way. The Universities where drilling takes place are to receive 50% of the fees and royalties generated by the on campus drilling with another 15% going toward tuition subsidies. The question remains as to what is 50% of fees when compared to the profits that will be potentially generated. The impact of 15% of said fees going to tuition subsidies is unlikely to be felt by students paying ever-increasing costs on many soon to be shrinking campus landscapes, but every little bit helps.
It is assumed that Republican challanger Tom Smith, founder of his own coal business company, would be of a like mind of the Govenor’s in regards to drilling .
Casey’s position? He does have a record of introducing legislation to restrict drilling in the state and fund employee eduction to keep the natural gas industry jobs instate. It is hard to see any fruit coming from his efforts but he ha actually been doing something.
Hugo Chavez, a non-fan of the United States, win in the presidential election last week in Venezeula, the world’s fifth largest oil producer, means even more intense competition for US oil companies in foreign markets. The temptation to tap more natural domestic resources to compete is overwhelming. Through all of this the talk of expanding the use of existing or creation of alternative energies seems to have been forgotten if not drowned out all together. Lost in the big scheme of things.
I mean seriously, oil companies just got a pass to search and tap for natural gas on the states college and university campuses. Which of these candidates is going to put a stop to that insanity?