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Pennsylvania’s revived gas tax credit bill headed to governor’s desk

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a news conference July 1, 2020..

(The Center Square) – Four months after Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto, legislators again passed a bill that would provide tax credits to petrochemical plants in northeastern Pennsylvania.

This time, however, the administration will sign the legislation after negotiations guaranteed prevailing wage benefits and limited the cost to taxpayers.

“We have all the worker protections in place to make sure construction workers are paid prevailing wages and taxpayer protections are in place,” Sen. Joh Yudichak, I-Luzerne, told reporters Wednesday.

Yudichak and Republican Rep. Aaron Kaufer, also of Luzerne County, championed House Bill 732 as a “win” across the board – for business, organized labor, working class families and the administration. The measure establishes the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit, which requires a company to invest $400 million in the construction of a new manufacturing facility, create 800 jobs, pay prevailing wages and use carbon capture and sequestration technology “when economically feasible.”

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association said the bill will create at least 4,400 permanent jobs and realize $1.6 billion in economic benefits to the region.

“We need this bill,” Yudichak said. “Our working families in northeastern Pennsylvania need this bill. We need the economic growth.”

For environmental groups and some Democrats, however, the bill prioritizes handouts to gas companies over the health and safety of residents. The proposal comes after Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report last month that alleged lackadaisical enforcement of oil and gas regulations subjected those living near hydraulic fracturing sites in southeastern Pennsylvania to adverse health impacts, like rashes, nosebleeds, birth defects and cancer.

“The fracked gas and petrochemical industries cannot be trusted to operate safely in the Commonwealth,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Instead of holding the industry accountable, our so-called leaders are giving them millions in precious taxpayer dollars.”

Bonomo said the subsidies will cost $670 million over the next 25 years and pump 130 million tons of emissions into the atmosphere for just 3,200 jobs in return. She said joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would create more economic opportunities for residents, bringing in 27,000 jobs and saving 223 million tons of carbon pollution.

“The back-room deal negotiated to create HB 732 is reckless,” she said. “It is now up to the court system to protect ordinary Pennsylvanians and for future leaders to undo the damage this deal allows.”

Pennsylvania’s pending entry in RGGI, scheduled for 2022, remains a lightning point of controversy among the legislature’s Republican majorities and the Wolf administration. House GOP advanced a measure last week that would strip the DEP of any authority to join the program without legislative approval.

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