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Session Daze - March 25, 2011

One small step for Pennsylvanians; one semi-giant leap for Governor Corbett
Governor Corbett this week moved ever so slightly in the direction of making the drillers for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations pay their fair share. He told reporters that he maybe, kind of, thought an impact fee - levied by local municipalities - might get his signature if the legislature insists on passing one. But he is still adamant that no money from drilling go to offset the state's budget woes that have led him to slash funding for education and other vital services that Pennsylvania's families and small businesses rely on.

A third of a loaf just leaves the rest of us hungry
Former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary John Quigley details the problems with the "local impact" only approach in his blog, pointing out that the damages from drilling knows no borders, among other points. As Quigley said:

It just makes sense to have more extensive tax, one that provides relief for local communities, and invests in the environment and helps balance the budget.

And if Governor Corbett thinks supporting a local option will please the drilling industry, we sincerely doubt it. This plan fails to provide the surety that any business needs, and could mean the drillers have to negotiate terms with every municipality with drilling.

Support for a drilling tax keeps growing
Another poll - this conducted by Susquehanna Polling Research, a firm that many Republicans rely on - found that seven out of ten Pennsylvanians support a drilling tax, with support among Republicans at 62 percent. The poll also found that the majority of Pennsylvanians oppose opening up more state forestland to drilling.

Give me land lots of land
Two miles, that is. That's the minimum amount of land surface that would remain undisturbed by drilling rigs if Rep. Greg Vitali's proposed legislation (HB 1211) passes. This would protect the rest of the state from facing the fate Dimock Township (Susquehanna County), where 63 wells have been drilled in a 9-square-mile area, and five separate wells pads are within a quarter-mile of each other.

What we're reading - True or False: Renewable Energy Can Replace Nuclear and Fossil Fuels
Former DEP Secretary, PUC Commissioner and founder of PennFuture John Hanger has an excellent piece on the growth of renewable energy in the next ten years on his blog. This issue must be addressed urgently, as we continue to deal with the failing nuclear reactors in Japan, and the global air pollution and climate change from coal-fired power plants.

And speaking of Japan, most people are aware that the nuclear plants in trouble there were designed by General Electric. According to today's New York Times, though, General Electric is much better at avoiding taxes than designing safe nukes. In 2010, GE's worldwide profits were $14.2 billion, with $5.1 billion of the total coming from its operations in the United States. Said the Times, "Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion."

Good news from Japan
HuffPostGreen reported this week on one bright energy spot during Japan's horrific ordeal from earthquakes and aftershocks, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdown. As Kelly Rigg of GCCA wrote, "Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis."

Rumors abound
You can always count on some folks to try to reverse progress. So we weren't surprised when we heard that there was a group trying to overturn the regulations passed last year that protect our special and high quality waters by requiring developers and others to leave green space of at least 150 feet around these waters. Forget that this also protects drinking water, reduces the risk of flood damage, increases property values, improves our water quality, reduces the cost of stormwater treatment for local communities, and supports jobs.

But the Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water has sounded the alarm, and watershed lovers from throughout the state sent a letter this week to DEP Secretary-designee Michael Krancer urging him to keep the buffer requirement.

Podcast of the Week: Next Great City 2
Philadelphia has made extraordinary progress since 2007, when PennFuture and 130 other community, faith, environmental, business, and union organizations declared that the City of Brotherly Love could be the Next Great City if everyone worked together to create cleaner, safer & healthier neighborhoods. Since Mayor Michael Nutter took office, the coalition and the mayor have accomplished nearly all 10 action steps the coalition sought.

On St. Patrick's Day 2011, the Coalition launched Next Great City 2 -- bringing candidates for Philadelphia City Council into the NGC fold. This time, all City Council candidates are being asked to commit to five additional action steps.

This video podcast - which you can watch on our podcast site or on PennFuture's YouTube Channel -- features that Campaign launch, which was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, which is home -- as you will plainly hear -- to an African parrot which added its two cents to the event.

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