Tapping into PA’s Coal Reserves

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, the Pennsylvania House passed HB 1813 by a vote of 193-1. This bill gives the coal industry the ability to more easily tap into an estimated 6 billion tons of anthracite coal. The legislation enables coal companies to use more of their own capital to meet bonding requirements for mining reclamation while re-opening abandoned mine sites.

Environmental organizations, such as the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Coal Mine Reclamation, support the legislation. The profit incentive from available coal in old mine sites will entice many companies to start operations in the five county region. As a prerequisite of operation, companies will be held responsible for restoring damaged ecosystems from past mining. Ultimately, this will take the $10,000 per acre reclamation bill burden off the taxpayer tab and accelerate the restoration process.

According to the GOP release, in the past, the coal industry was a major employer with more than 150,000 employees. Today, after decades of downsizing due to increased federal and state environmental regulations imposed on mining operations and power plants, the coal industry employs a mere 1,000 Pennsylvanians. This new legislation boasts tremendous potential for the creation of new jobs in the industry.

Along with increased jobs comes an increased supply of coal. According to economic theory, an increased supply on the power grid equates to lower energy prices for struggling consumers. Unleashing the potential of Pennsylvania’s natural resources will be an invaluable component to the country’s growing energy needs and goals of becoming more energy independent in the future.

Sponsor Representative Mike Tobash proclaims HB 1813 to be a true “win-win” situation. The legislation will save taxpayers money in mining reclamation costs, create hundreds- if not thousands- of jobs in Pennsylvania, deliver affordable energy to consumers, and promises to far exceed the current $200 million contribution mark to the Keystone economy. The legislature can unleash the potential of the state’s immense natural gas and coal reserves while maintaining the environment. HB 1813 is a dynamic example of aligning proper incentives for both ecological and economic development. Policymakers must allow the industries to flourish in order for Pennsylvania to become a national leader in energy production.

Democrats Condemn 2011 as “GOP Failure”

Before adjourning for Christmas recess, Democratic leaders issued a press release lambasting Gov. Corbett and the Republican legislature for their “extreme ideological crusade” and “no leadership on jobs.” The scathing critique included overtones of commonplace class warfare rhetoric accusing Republicans of attacking workers’ rights and the middle-class. Representative Dermody, D-Allegheny, went as far as saying that Republicans made Pennsylvania’s job climate worse coupled with failures in transportation and Marcellus Shale tax policy.

Despite Democratic claims, Republicans accomplished several achievements for Pennsylvania’s job climate. The Corbett budget reduced spending and did not raise taxes. The Corbett administration no longer had federal stimulus funds and made substantial cuts. An end to the state’s runaway government spending brought tax stability for job creators and Pennsylvanians. In order to successfully curb Pennsylvania’s onerous tax burden, Republicans passed legislation to reduce loopholes in school district property tax hikes without voter referendum. Republicans refrained from imposing large Marcellus Shale taxes which will keep the industry booming. According to Democratic philosophy, taking action on jobs equates to more government spending. In stark contrast, Republicans are trying to keep spending and taxes low so that the private sector can prosper.

Senator Hughes, D-Philadelphia, asserts that budget cuts are “reverse investments at a time when we should be investing more in our roads, bridges, mass transit, and our workers.” Governor Corbett’s transportation report in August agreed that the state of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure is deteriorating. Third party state rankings report that Pennsylvania’s roadways and bridges are amongst the worst in the nation despite being at the top of the leader board in roadway spending per mile. Additionally, fuel taxes, which fund the roadways, are amongst the highest in the nation. Instead of raising fuel taxes which increase the burden for Pennsylvanians at the pump, there must be reforms dedicated toward getting more value for the current funding. Senate Republicans passed SB 344 which established more public-private partnerships in transportation. More efficient infrastructure spending means more projects, more jobs, and better roadways.

Lastly, state Democrats protested against the Republican’s impact fee on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. Democratic leaders contend that the tax on drilling companies is not high enough for companies to “pay their fair share.” Democratic legislators criticize Pennsylvania for having the lowest tax on natural gas drillers in the nation. For many Democrats, the economic boom associated with the natural gas industry equates to more revenue for government spending. Republicans must proactively highlight the billions of dollars in capital investments, royalties given to local landowners, and taxes generated from the industry. The industry is successfully providing jobs and cheap energy to Pennsylvanians. Taxing the industry will ultimately reduce its investment and growth potential, and impose higher energy costs on already struggling consumers.

Democrats continue to lash out at GOP leadership in an effort to score political points and defer blame of the stagnant, faltering economy. Republicans must keep focused and press forward to reduce the growth of government, provide tax relief, and create a business friendly climate for job creation.

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