by Othniel T. Degahson, Jr.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is proposing an increase in the price of a shale gas well permit from $5,000 per well to $12,500 per well. The Department of Environmental protection justifies this as a necessity to keep the state’s oil and gas oversight program from operating at a deficit, as permit fee revenue has seen a large decrease since 2014-2015. As the DEP gets a large amount of its funding from permit revenue, they have had to decrease the amount of employees in their oil and gas program.
Permit fees for shale gas wells are paid once at a well’s birth and inspection responsibilities continue until the well is plugged decades later.
The state government under Governor Tom Wolf has known that the DEP needed more money, yet they delayed on permit fee increases due to state budget negotiations that had the possibility of a severance tax on shale, which would have a portion of those funds allocated to the DEP’s oil and gas program.
Industry representatives are generally supportive of a fee increase “to provide DEP’s oil and gas program with the resources it needs” but were blind sighted by the size of the fee increase, especially given what they viewed as excessive amounts of time for the permits to become approved. Marcellus Shale Coalition data shows the average permit wait time increase from 57 days in 2016 to 111 days in 2017.
Mike Turzai, the Speaker of Pennsylvania’s House, is the fourth candidate to announce a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next spring. He joins Scott Wagner, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth in the race for the opportunity to unseat Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2018.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has started his term off with a series of meetings and visits with members of the state legislature. Wolf’s spokesman said he has already visited about 50 members of the legislature with plans for more. In a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Amy Worden and Angela Couloumbis capture some interesting responses from inside the Capitol. Here are a couple:
“You don’t expect the governor of Pennsylvania to walk in when you hear a knock at the door.” Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia).
“In a bipartisan way, he’s walking the halls, talking to members – that’s been unheard of in my 15 terms.” and “I’ve served under four governors, there’s never been a governor who went around to offices like this….I think it’s a new way and a new day, and we should recognize that.” Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny).
“It was a nice surprise. I think he’s getting out to meet people on their own turf, and trying to establish a rapport, especially with people on the other side of the aisle.” Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland).
Mike McGann of the Unionville Times offered a similar quote: “I was working late one night, my staff had already gone home. And I hear the door to my outer office open and I’m wondering what’s going on. And then my office door opens and it is Gov. Wolf, just coming by to say hello.” Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Delaware).
However, the final quote from the Worden and Couloumbis article sheds light on the potential effectiveness of this tactic in the current political environment:
Drew Crompton, the Senate Republicans’ chief counsel stated “Was it a nice gesture? Yes. But you know this place. . . . There aren’t things you are going to just gloss over because a guy shows up at your door.”