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House Rejects Marcellus Shale Bill, Moves to Conference Committee

The House this week unanimously voted to reject the Senate amendments to House Bill 1950, the House Republican natural gas plan that was gutted in the Senate last week, and replaced with Senate Republican language of Senate Bill 1100.

With no bill actively in play, negotiations among the House, Senate and Governor Corbett will continue. The biggest pressure points relate to the amount of the extraction tax or fee, who will collect it, and how it will be distributed at the state and local levels.

Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Senate Republicans, has said that sometime in January the Senate will likely vote to keep its amendments to House Bill 1950, forcing a formal conference committee to negotiate the bill.

Once a compromise is reached in conference committee, the bill will be sent to each chamber for an up-or-down vote.

Regardless of the vehicle, many Democrats feel that the bill needs beefed up environmental policies, and a higher fee. House and Senate Republicans also have issues with the fee level, with many House Republicans, as well as Governor Corbett, stating that the fee in SB 1100 / amended HB 1950 is too high. There have also been complaints from some House Republicans and the administration that the bill places too many environmental restrictions on the industry.  The state’s elected officials are geographically split on many of these issues with legislators from Marcellus shale regions on one side, and those in the southeast insisting on more funds, statewide distribution of revenues, and stricter environmental regulation.

Last week, Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said that he believes negotiations between the two chambers and the Governor have resolved most environmental regulation concerns; however, the fee remains an issue.

More on Marcellus
• NPR’s Statewide Impact has a new interactive app which tracks every producing Marcellus Shale well in Pennsylvania.