Marcellus Shale Legislation
Last week was a busy week for the Legislature. After years of debating, the General Assembly passed Marcellus Shale legislation, which was sent to the Governor and signed into law on February 13th. House Bill 1950 (HB 1950) is a complex bill that covers many aspects of the industry.
Marcellus Shale is a deep geologic formation that underlies 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Pennsylvania ranks 15th among the states in natural gas production, however, it is the only major state with fossil fuel deposits that did not have a severance tax or impact fee. In fact, all 14 states with a greater natural gas production than Pennsylvania have levied a severance tax or a conservation fee, all with a higher tax than what has been proposed for our state. Officials expect the Marcellus Shale drilling to eventually vault Pennsylvania to a place among the top five gas producing states.
Over the years, proponents of the fee say drilling throughout Pennsylvania will create revenue and compensate our citizens for the removal of this resource by creating jobs. In addition, the fee will help offset the costs of new roads and bridges, building, and emergency response needs that accompany growth of the natural gas industry.
Opponents of this fee argue that Pennsylvania is in tough competition against other states for the industry’s investment, and putting an impact fee on this energy resource will have a considerable negative impact on Pennsylvania’s ability to compete with other states.
Under HB 1950, an impact fee will be enacted which will fluctuate depending on the price of natural gas and inflation. The fee will yield $190,000 and $355,000 per well in the first 15 years. The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission will administer the collection of the fee and portions of the funding will be split between local municipalities and statewide impact-related programs.
County governments where unconventional wells are located will have the ability to vote on whether to impose an impact fee. If they chose not to, municipalities in that county could impose the fee if half of the municipalities, or if the municipality representing at least 50 percent of the county’s population, adopts a resolution to impose a fee. Specifically, 60 percent of the revenues from this fee will be split between local governments meaning a portion of revenue given to municipalities hosting drilling, shale counties and municipalities in shale counties, and municipalities including those with and without drilling.
The statewide share will receive 40 percent that will be broken down and go to various programs including: replacement or repair costs associated with locally owned at-risk deteriorating bridges, acid mine drainage remediation, orphaned or abandoned oil and gas well plugging, development and rehabilitation of greenways, open space, parks and beautification projects, sewage treatment and flood control projects to name a few.
HB 1950 also increases setbacks so that the shale gas wells must be 500 feet from occupied structures and water wells, and 1,000 feet from public drinking water. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will have the authority to revoke or deny permits to “bad actors,” as well as establish regulations protecting the drilling region from chemical or hazardous waste at drilling sites.
Because the General Assembly was unable to reach a consensus on Marcellus Shale legislation and amendments, a conference committee was formed. Appointed onto the committee were three Senators and three House members. Together, the conference committee negotiated the terms of the final piece of legislation. After a bill comes out of a conference committee, no amendments are allowed to be offered. The General Assembly has to vote the bill as is and a constitutional majority is needed for passage in both chambers.
When it comes to issues before the legislature, especially matters like this that will affect generations to come, I always look to my constituents and their opinions to help guide me in how to vote. HB 1950 passed the Senate on February 7th by a vote of 31-19. Please know I voted against the Marcellus shale legislation for several reasons.
To begin, this legislation restricts local municipalities’ ability to provide zoning regulations over the Industry within their individual municipalities. Local officials need be able to work with residents and make decisions about drilling that best fits the needs of their communities. HB 1950 does not allow them this right.
Every resident of my district also deserves clean water, air and land. This bill does not go far enough to ensure we are adequately protecting our environment. This is about future generations and there are not enough restrictions to protect us from the risks associated with drilling and the affect it can have on our environment and the safety of residents.
For quite some time, I have advocated for a meaningful impact fee on the Industry. I believe the fee in HB 1950 needed to be higher. Pennsylvania will have the lowest impact fee in our nation and as our Commonwealth struggles with budget cuts across the board, a higher impact fee could have been utilized to fund so many of these essential services. The Marcellus Shale industry has the resources and the citizens of Pennsylvania are not reaping enough of the benefits.
Overall, I have stressed the need to balance the support of this promising industry with the responsibility to our citizenry and their safety. Instead, HB 1950, looks out for the priority of the Administration which is big businesses.
PHEAA Offers Free FAFSA Completion Sessions
In my role as Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), I want families and students to know there is free help available to them when applying for financial assistance for college. PHEAA is offering Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Sessions across the Commonwealth through April for families with students planning to attend college during the 2012-13 academic year. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for most need-based financial assistance, which include Pennsylvania State Grants, Federal Pell Grants, work-study programs, many scholarships and school-based aid, and low cost federal student loans.
These sessions will offer guidance in completing the FAFSA and will grant families and college-bound students the opportunity to ask questions related to the FAFSA or financial aid in general pertaining to their individual circumstances. You can visit PHEAA's website for a listing of upcoming FAFSA Completion Sessions. This list will be updated as more locations are added. You can also access frequently asked questions, overviews, preparation worksheets, and links to the online application by visiting www.pheaa.org/FAFSA.
Small Business Assistance
The second Small Business Development Outreach Day of 2012 is scheduled for this Thursday, February 16th at my Kennedy Township office located at Kenmawr Plaza.
As you may know, I have been partnering with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to offer a monthly opportunity for constituents to meet with SBDC Client Services Liaison John Dobransky. This service provides small business owners, as well as those considering starting their own business, with the education, information, and tools they need to build their businesses. Consultations are one-on-one, free, and confidential.
Mr. Dobransky will be available in the Kennedy Township office between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, contact Mr. Dobransky at 412-624-2290.
Carnegie Library Customer Appreciation Days
Beginning Monday, February 20th, most Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches will have expanded hours, opening more evenings, after school and on weekends. Library customers will gain 119 hours per week with all neighborhood libraries open for service Mondays and Fridays. You can visit CLP's website to view an updated listing of expanded hours by location.
In conjunction with the expanded hours, several Friends of the Library groups are hosting Customer Appreciation Open Houses at their respective neighborhood branches during the week of February 20th. The Open Houses will feature fun activities, light refreshments, and the opportunity to become a “friend” of the library. The following is a listing of Customer Appreciation Days. For more information please visit the CLP website:
CLP – East Liberty
CLP – Hazelwood
CLP – West End
CLP – Brookline
CLP - Sheraden
CLP - Downtown
CLP – Squirrel Hill
CLP – Beechview
CLP – Hill District
CLP – Homewood
CLP – Knoxville
CLP – Lawrenceville
CLP – Woods Run
CLP – Mt. Washington
CLP – Carrick
Pirates Job Fair
Baseball season will be here before we know it and the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking for workers. Tomorrow, the Pirates in conjunction with ARAMARK and Levy Restaurants will be hosting the 2012 Job Fair at PNC Park. The Fair will take place between 5 – 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose/Press Conference Room. All attendees should enter through the Press Entrance, located on West General Robinson Street. Seasonal positions available include: greeters, hosts/hostesses, ticket sellers, cleaning staff, security, guest relations, caterers, and concessions. You can also apply for these positions online by visiting the Pirates' career page.
Immediate Openings with After-School Program
The Bloomfield Garfield Corporation (BGC) is looking to fill two positions in its Youth Development Center’s 21st Century After-School Program. BGC is accepting applications for the positions of After-School Site Coordinator and After-School Program Support Staff. The After-School Site Coordinator is responsible for implementing age and grade appropriate Language Arts and Mathematics lessons for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, developing weekly program schedules and ensuring lesson plans are aligned with the school day. The After-School Program Support Staff position will assist students with lessons and tutoring, supervise field trips and maintain a clean and safe program space.
These positions are part-time and candidates must be available between the hours of 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. Anyone interested in applying should email a resume and cover letter to BGCafterschool@aol.com. For more information about these positions, please call 412-441-9833 or visit the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation's website.
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Celebrates 25 Years of Jazz
The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) is celebrating its 25th Anniversary of Jazz with a special event on Saturday, March 3rd, titled “Once in a Lifetime.” The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’ouevres, a silent auction of memorabilia from the MCG Jazz archives, the opportunity to mingle with many Pittsburgh jazz legends and will conclude with a concert featuring FIVE PLAY and Marlena Shaw.
For more than 40 years Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild has been a unique haven - a multi-disciplined arts and learning center that fosters a sense of belonging, interconnections, and hope within the urban community. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is located on Pittsburgh’s North Shore in a state-of-the-art facility housing visual arts, design, ceramics and photography classrooms, a dining hall, auditorium/concert hall, and gallery all designed to showcase the roles of creativity and craftsmanship in learning. Handmade objects, furniture, photographs, and paintings that adorn public and private spaces create a model environment for education, exhibitions, performances, and social and professional gatherings.
Congratulations to the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild on 25 years of jazz! For more information on the “Once in a Lifetime”event, or to purchase tickets, please visit the MCG website or call 412-322-0800.
Did You Know…
Did you know, since 1987, international masters of jazz – Joe Williams, Billy Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine and Ray Brown have all performed at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz 350-seat auditorium/music hall in Pittsburgh?
International Auto Show Comes to Pittsburgh
The 2012 Pittsburgh International Auto Show will be in Pittsburgh February 17th – 20th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Show hours are 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday. This four-day event features cars, trucks and SUV’s from over 35 manufacturers and exhibitors and provides visitors with a preview of coming attractions. The Auto Show is a great opportunity for families to check out a variety of new vehicles in a non-selling environment, all under one roof. To view the full schedule of events, including activities for the entire family, please visit, www.pittautoshow.com.
Point Park University, located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, currently enrolls 3,920 full- and part-time students in 87 undergraduate programs and 13 graduate programs offered through its School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Communication and Conservatory of Performing Arts.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana