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What's Next for Natural Gas with Corbett and A Republican-Controlled House

Anya Litvak
Pittsburgh Business Times
November 8, 2010

On Wednesday, at Hart’s Developing Unconventional Gas conference Downtown, Republican strategist Karl Rove offered a glimpse into the future of natural gas drilling in the United States.

Rove was invited to the event, which included about 2,500 oil and gas industry attendees, to deliver “an update on mid-term elections and their impact on the gas industry.”

Rove predicted that Congress will continue to talk about the kind of disclosures that should be required of natural gas companies, but on the whole, he seemed confident that the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives would be more sympathetic to the natural gas industry than its predecessor.

“Fracing — I don’t think you have to worry about that,” he said.

What to expect from Corbett

Closer to home, Pennsylvania's new governor-elect has already addressed the changes he would like to see.

In his energy policy, Attorney General Tom Corbett promised to create a Marcellus Shale Work Group “to ensure the successful development of the industry and advise the Governor and the Energy Executive on pertinent issues, including possible legislative regulatory changes.”

The governor-elect’s plan also includes the creation of a Marcellus Shale Science Advisory Board, which will help “identify the best available and practical water recycling and treatment technologies” for Marcellus Shale water. Corbett also promised to set aside a portion of DEP permit fees and royalties from state forest drilling to be used to fund deployment of those technologies.

To ensure more of those royalties, Corbett also promised to reverse the recently signed executive order banning the further leasing of state forest land for shale drilling.

Corbett is against instituting a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas extraction.

Bills

There are dozens of Marcellus-related bills left on the floor of the state legislature at the end of the previous session, many of which are likely to be reintroduced and judged through a different prism, according to Tim Bittle, a lobbyist with Harrisburg-based firm Bigley and Blikle.

Bittle predicts the legislature will take up pipeline regulation — a bill granting the Public Utility Commission authority to regulate gathering pipelines was introduced towards the end of the legislative period.

Also, Marcellus-minded business incentives are likely to surface. For example, Stan Saylor, a Republican representative from York County who was reelected on Nov. 2, introduced a bill to incentivize natural gas vehicles. Corbett’s energy plan wants to do the same for the state’s fleet.

Future of the DEP

Corbett’s comments about the DEP hinted at a different vision for the DEP. His energy plan says this, under the heading of “Getting the Department Environmental Protection back to the basics”:

• The agency must be refocused to be more efficient and serve Pennsylvania better.

• Unfortunately, the lack of oversight of DEP’s regional offices during the past few years has caused basic programs to be administered inconsistently throughout the state, causing further delays in permit reviews and unnecessary added costs to applicants.