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Economy & Business

Pennsylvanians Want to Keep Drilling, But Tax It

A broad majority of Pennsylvanians support natural gas drilling, according to a new poll. At the same time, 65% of respondents want lawmakers to pass a severance tax, and send the revenue to the state government. 72% want to split the tax dollars between the state and local municipalities.

"So the takeaway here is, Pennsylvanians say, yep, let's tax. Let's divide the tax between local communities and the state," said pollster Terry Madonna. "Yes, the industry is doing the right thing. They're doing a good job, but oh, by the way, you better be careful about the environment."

The Franklin and Marshall College survey shows 66% of Pennsylvanians view the natural gas industry favorably. About 39% think its benefits outweigh environmental risks, compared to 35% of respondents who put concerns about water and air pollution above drilling's economic boost. Madonna says Pennsylvanians see good things coming out of drilling. "They see jobs, they see increased spending. They see tax revenues going up."Map of Marcellus Shale leases in Pennsylvania state forests (DCNR)

A strong consensus also emerges on the issue of whether or not to lease out additional state forest land for natural gas drilling. "The residents of our state say keep your hands off our state forest land," said Madonna. 72% of respondents are against that idea. More than 700-thousand acres of state forest land have already been leased. Annual royalties from drilling there will likely surpass $100 million within the next few years.