Political Commentary by John Buffington is the first in a series. His opinions are entirely his own.
My friend Joe Menkevich and I were planted on adjacent bar stools when Danny Savage strolled up looking for the possible vote.
Joe is always ready with conversation for a politician. This time my ears started to vibrate when Danny said that his opponent, Sen. Tartaglione, voted twice against taxing Marcellus Shale gas production. I got Danny to repeat that one directly to me, and he promised to send me the details.
No follow-up from Danny has ever arrived. Danny’s campaign literature doesn’t include a phone number. The number at Danny’s website is disconnected; it forwards to another number that is also disconnected. Danny is unreachable by telephone.
So I researched Sen. Tartaglione’s record on shale gas taxation without further help from Danny.
What Sen. T voted against was Act 13, which includes a modest “extraction fee”. Republicans who have sworn to avoid new taxes need euphemisms, so the Act 13 tax became an “extraction fee”.
Tina Tartaglione wasn’t alone in voting against Act 13. Every Democrat in the state Senate voted No on final passage.
Act 13 is the Corbett administration’s vehicle for turning Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of Shale gas production. It isn’t especially controversial hereabouts, yet, because there’s a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River basin and the pipelines haven’t been built through here yet. So you can’t smell or taste fracking in Philadelphia. Yet.
Danny Savage’s campaign flyers claim that he will “fight to pass a real tax will on natural gas drilling…”. Maybe so, but it’s not good to start the effort by lying about your opponent’s record.
On March 31, Sen. T. and four other senators started circulating a request for additional sponsors for SB 1333, which would impose a 5% tax on shale gas extraction.
I have been observing politics with horrible fascination for more than 50 years. I have seen plenty of politicians blowing smoke like Danny. It is a pleasure; believe me, when I occasionally stumble on a politician who is doing the right thing for purely virtuous reasons, and doing it quietly.
It isn’t politically correct around here, yet, to do the right thing about shale gas extraction because you can’t smell or taste the poison here, yet. Tina Tartaglione looks to me like a politician who is doing the right thing quietly.
I asked the Brendan Boyle campaign about his position on taxing fracking proceeds and learned that he voted against Act 13.
I asked the Daylin Leach campaign and they referred me to a staff member in Senator Leach’s office. It turns out that Sen. Leach is devoting a lot of resources to this also, despite the lack of promotional potential.
Imagine that. I stumbled on not one but two politicians in the same campaign season who actively care about the public interest.
Senator Leach voted against Act 13 and has signed on as a sponsor of SB 1333. His staff member gave me enough material to write a book on fracking.
I also heard from a third school of thought. The Delaware Riverkeeper takes the position that fracking to produce natural gas is inherently disastrous for both air and water, and taxing it is just a distraction. Their website is a good place to start finding out about the issue. www.delawareriverkeeper.org
I plan to do an occasional piece on local politics for the Gazette. If you spot a politician blowing smoke, please let me know.