Environmental group PennFutures and Chesapeake Bay Foundation officials recently called for state lawmakers to abandon plans to lease state land to gas drilling companies and instead raise money for the state by implementing a severance tax on gas removed anywhere in the state.
At least two local lawmakers disagreed on both counts.
"I'm still unconvinced for the need for a severance tax," said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. "Maybe (it can be implemented) in a few years when the industry is up and running and producing something."
Everett said he wants to see the industry gain a foothold in the state, then study the impacts the industry has on other types of taxes such as the corporate net income tax.
State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, agreed.
The industry should be allowed to develop before such a tax is implemented, Yaw said.
"I don't think there is any question that down the road when the industry is established that there'll be a tax," he said. "I've talked to people in the industry. They expect it."
Yaw said if there was the potential for any other job-producing industry to move to the state, they would be offered incentives such as tax breaks to come here.
"You can't have an industry come in and then tax them to death," he said. "Now is not the right time."
"There's not really a huge industry to tax," Everett said. "Basically, today a severance tax would hurt the shallow well business in the western part of the state."
Both Yaw and Everett said leasing state land for gas exploration should be done and can be done responsibly.
"I think it would be irresponsible if we didn't lease some state land," Everett said. "There is a humongous amount of state land in Pennsylvania that can be developed responsibly and I think it should be."
"I think some people get confused between (the words) 'state forest land' and 'state park,'" he said. "There is just miles and miles and miles of state forest land that nobody sees. You can't get to it right now."
"There's no question there is a lot of activity and a lot of equipment and a lot of things that go on for a couple months," Yaw said. "Once drilling is completed, those sites are reclaimed. The ones I've seen are grass."
Yaw said he understands concern about land disturbance related to the building of pipeline infrastructure, but added that pipelines should be installed, when possible, along pre-existing rights-of-way such as roads and power lines.
The foundation recently filed a legal challenge to the issuance of erosion and sediment control permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection to gas-drilling companies in Tioga County.
Fortuna Energy Inc. was issued a permit to move earth related to the installation of a pipeline in Jackson Township. Ultra Resources Inc. received a permit for drilling operations in Gaines and Elk townships.
The foundation contends the state is jeopardizing the bay watershed by "rubber-stamping" permits without proper review.
Foundation attorney Matthew Royer said the DEP should restore review responsibility to the county Conservation Districts. The agency took over permit review responsibilities from the districts earlier this year.
"Conservation Districts have the local knowledge and experience to review permits and manage the program," Royer said. "What we see here is a clear failure by DEP to meet fundamental review obligations. DEP should restore (review) authority to Conservation Districts."
"I didn't understand why the Conservation District folks were taken out of the loop," Everett said. "The explanation (by the DEP) was that there was uneven enforcement from county to county, but I think Conservation District folks can be trained to put an extra pair of eyes and pair of boots on the ground."
"I don't have a problem with the Conservation Districts," Yaw said. "My experience is they did a good job."
Yaw added that both the DEP and Susquehanna River Basin Commission have "been very responsive" in streamlining their permitting process "without compromising the environment."
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, did not respond to the Sun-Gazette's request for comment as of deadline for this report.