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Exploit and Escape?

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Marcellus-42.jpgGov. Corbett's Marcellus Shale commission came out with a summary of its recommendations this week and, not surprisingly, it recommended that the state charge gas companies an "extraction fee" that would be directed back to the communities where their drilling takes place.

The commission had a list of other recommendations, but gave not details - they apparently will come next week, when the full report is due to be issued.

There are two likely outcomes from the report.  The legislature will enact an extraction fee (none dare call it a tax).  With new rules and regulations in place, drilling will spread until the natural gas business becomes one of Pennsylvania's biggest - at least in terms of dollars generated, if not in employment.  

In a piece I did for the Fels Institute at Penn, I list some of the problems the state has had in the past with extraction industries. Here is the beginning of the Fels column:

If you want an object lesson on the dangers inherent in extraction of natural resources, talk to the residents of Centralia - the 10 who are left.

Centralia was a town of 1,000 located northeastern Pennsylvania that had the great misfortune of having someone inadvertently set a fire that seeped below ground and ignited gases trapped in a web of abandoned hard coal mines.  That was in 1962.  The fire is still burning today.

As residents grew sick from carbon monoxide, as sink holes began opening up - one nearly swallowed a 12-year-old boy, the state and federal government intervened, moved most residents out, effectively condemned the entire town and cordoned it off.  Wikipedia refers to Centralia as "a borough and ghost town in Columbia County."  The 10 who lived there in 2010 were diehards or, if you prefer, knuckleheads.

You can read more here....

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