The natural-gas station for vehicles at 2926 Smallman St. in the Strip District. Yesterday, a House panel approved a bill that will give tax credits used to develop more in-state natural gas production. (Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette)
According to a story published earlier this morning by The Scranton Times-Tribune, millions of dollars of state tax credits have been allotted to natural gas markets by a House committee which passed a bill advanced by the Finance Committee on Tuesday. The bill will develop more uses in Pennsylvania for in-state natural gas production, which has previously been sent to the Gulf Coast for processing. The bill was a top priority for House Republicans.
The bill focuses on all aspects of natural gas harvesting, with one measuring providing “$25 million annually in tax credits to help businesses convert fleets of vehicles that use gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas,” according to The Times-Tribune. Another $5 million in tax credits would go towards developing “designated natural gas corridors with fueling stations along the interstates, including Interstate 81 and 80,” according to The Times-Tribune.
Aside from tax credits, the bills also include provisions that give the chairman of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, and executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, seats on advisory committees where they can make further recommendations for tax credit candidates to state officials. It is no surprise that these industry-favoring provisions drew what the Times-Tribune calls “considerable debate,” although the final decision on all future tax credits will be left up to a cabinet secretary, House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-94, Red Lion, sponsor of the fleet conversion bill, told the Times-Tribune.
"We want money to go to companies that have a business plan," Mr. Saylor told The Times-Tribune. Mr. Saylor also told The Times-Tribune that the bill’s goal is to create jobs and use the newfound resource to benefit citizens. So far, the oil and gas industry has done just that, making Pennsylvania second in the nation in shale jobs, just behind Texas, with the industry accounting for 8 percent of all industry jobs associated with resource development across 16 producing states.
Republicans may have been pleased with their success, but many Democrats were less than pleased. Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-120 Kingston, the ranking Democrat on the committee, criticized the bill for taking the industry’s side.
"It would be one thing if we had a (state) severance tax, but we don't," Ms. Mundy told The Times-Tribune. "That's enough of a slap in the face." She went on to compare the fueling station tax credit to a corporate giveaway similar to those given to large oil companies like ExxonMobil.
While these bills have already passed, adding to the list of previous Pennsylvania laws and incentives for natural gas, the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee are scheduled to consider further bills that stem from the same package today.