Rabe: "Wild West-style energy extraction" contrasts with residents' views

February 16, 2012

Ford School professor of environmental policy Barry G. Rabe has co-authored an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer responding to new legislation in Pennsylvania concerning natural-gas extraction.

The op-ed begins, "Pennsylvania's long-awaited Marcellus Shale legislation, signed by Gov. Corbett this week, reflects an approach to managing the state's resources that is reminiscent of the Wild West-style energy extraction of the late 19th century."

Specifically, Rabe and co-author Christopher P. Borick of Muhlenberg College cite the unconventional taxing structure – which allows counties to assess "an impact fee" on drillers but does not mandate one – the unprecedented powers granted to the Public Utility Commission to act as a zoning agency and potentially override local decisions, and the narrowly defined disclosure rules regarding drilling practices.

"In all of these areas, Pennsylvania officials are gambling that policies that vary greatly from national norms will maximize natural-gas yields and investment dollars," write Rabe and Borick. "The commonwealth's anomalous policies regard energy extraction as generally off limits to taxation, local control, and transparency."