Energy exec: Wolf's severance plan 'misguided'

Representatives of the state's energy and manufacturing industries Thursday slammed Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal for a severance tax they warned would be a damper on the state's natural gas industry.

It's the fourth try on a severance tax in as many years by Wolf, who said the state's natural gas industry should pay its fair share. Last year's plan passed the Senate but died in the General Assembly. A severance tax would bring in an estimated $248.7 million in the next fiscal year.

Wolf's new plan "is as misguided as the others," said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.

Wissman and David Spigelmyer, president of the Pittsburgh-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the natural gas industry already pays its fair share in the form of the impact fee, which is paid by drillers based on production and natural gas prices. The impact fee has brought in almost $1.5 billion to state and local programs since 2012.

"We already have a tax," Spigelmyer said. "He claims we do not. We just call it something else."

Spigelmyer said companies including Noble Energy, Anadarko and Shale Appalachia have already left Pennsylvania's natural gas industry. Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said the severance tax would make Pennsylvania businesses less competitive.

Bob Beatty, chairman of PIOGA's Pipeline Gas Market Development Committee, said more costs for the drillers would eventually be paid by consumers.

"We need to foster a more friendly environment for an energy source that we need and quite frankly the whole country needs," Beatty said.