Barry Rabe on the re-emergence of state trust funds in the shale gas era

October 7, 2016

An article by Barry G. Rabe and Rachel L. Hampton, “Trusting in the future: The re-emergence of state trust funds in the shale era.” appears in the October 2016 volume of Energy Research & Social Science.


Energy-producing states confront numerous challenges related to the boom-and-bust of resource extraction, including substantial fluctuation in revenue produced by severance taxes. Revenues surge as drilling expands during booms, creating many pressures for immediate expenditure. This often sets up enormous strain during bust periods when revenues plunge as longer-term needs emerge. This paper, however, examines the small set of states that have devised unique mechanisms to prepare for future busts. It reviews two periods (1970s and 2010s) in which six oil and gas-producing states amended their state constitutions to place severance tax revenues into permanent trust funds for long-term stewardship. It examines the key political factors that prompted the formation of these funds while also considering their resilience and performance to date.