Rather than dealing with the whole issue in one bill, the General Assembly should pass separate bills to protect the environment, establish a drilling tax, protect public land and create a conservation fund, the Harrisburg-based environmental organziation said.
"The current approach — jamming regulatory changes, a drilling fee, local government control issues, and restructuring the Oil and Gas Lease Fund into the same legislation — forces legislators to accept the lowest common denominator, pleasing no one but the drilling industry," PennFuture President and CEO Jan Jarrett said.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition industry group, however, cautioned legislators against increasing costs on drillers, especially given recent record-low natural gas prices.
Enacting a high drilling tax, toughening environmental regulations or failing to curb municipalities' power to regulate the industry could result in curtailed investment in natural gas production, the coalition warned in a Jan. 12 letter sent to state House and Senate leaders.
"We respectfully urge you to continue to make the enactment of shale legislation that creates reasonable, predictable, and consistent requirements for the industry a priority," the letter said.
The House and Senate both passed Marcellus Shale legislation last year, but could not reconcile the bills' differences before adjourning for the holidays. The issue is considered a top priority for legislators and the Corbett administration.