HARRISBURG, PA — A package of legislation called “Marcellus Works” is making its way through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and three bills out of the package related to compressed natural gas (CNG) were passed by the House on April 18.
One bill would give tax credits to consumers who buy vehicles powered by CNG. Another would provide tax credits to companies to build natural gas stations, or add natural gas pumps to existing stations. The third bill would provide tax credits to companies who switched their fleets from gasoline to CNG.
The three bills received a lot of support from Republicans who contend they will create jobs by helping the state to cash in on the vast natural gas reserves contained in the Marcellus Shale deposits that sit beneath a large swath of the state. But Democrats have labeled the tax credits as more corporate giveaways to companies that don’t need handouts.
At a press conference Republican Representative Seth Grove said, “The Marcellus Works legislative package will allow the Commonwealth to capitalize on a plentiful, affordable and more environmentally friendly source of energy at a time when we are still working our way out of a recession. The end goal of this legislation is to empower the private sector to create more jobs and to reduce our dependence on foreign energy.”
The job creation aspect was challenged on the floor of the House by Democratic Majority Whip Mike Hanna, who said, “This package of bills is labeled a job creation package, yet we’ve seen the same type of legislation in the past two years, and it has not lead to job creation. In fact, statistics show that since Governor Tom Corbett took office, Pennsylvania has tumbled nine places in the rankings of state unemployment. These unfunded corporate giveaways help the few at the expense of the many.”
Republican Representative Gordon Denlinger addressed the bill that would help establish a network of natural gas fueling stations, which he said will give businesses and consumers an option to high-priced foreign oil. He said that natural gas vehicles are now widely available for purchase and his bill would “provide incentives to incubate, but not sustain, the creation of a natural gas vehicle filling station network for businesses that can also ultimately be used by consumers as natural gas becomes a mainstream vehicle fuel.”
Democratic Representative Frank Dermody countered that the incentives or tax breaks would add $60 million to an already-approved $2 billion in breaks to some of the wealthiest companies in the world. He said of the three bills that passed, “When you total it all up, that’s $60 million out of the general fund; $60 million that could go to education, our children, social services. We are talking about the richest corporations, Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell; we are now going to build gas stations for them.”