Gas Drillers’ New Year’s Eve

Jan Jarrett |

On New Year’s Eve, Miss Smith walked out through the automatic sliding doors of the grocery store where she worked as a cashier and pulled her scarf to her nose as the December wind hit her face. Glad to be done with the last shift of 2015, she walked briskly toward her parents’ house where she had lived for the last three years.

Before she lost her job as an art teacher for the local school, she had her own apartment. But her salary at the grocery store was not enough to allow her to afford her own place after she made her student loan and car payments.

As she made her way down the dark street, she noticed a golden glow emanating from a beautiful bay window. “Unconventional Drillers Club – Private” was inscribed on a plaque on the door. She slowed and looked into a festive scene — a steady-flame gas fireplace against the opposite wall, a table spread with cheese, oysters, caviar, a chocolate fountain and more, men dressed in Armani suits and ostrich skin cowboy boots.

A butler dressed in a starched white shirt, black bow-tie was serving flutes of Dom Perignon to the well-heeled partygoers. Wait a minute, she recognized him — it was the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives!

One guest, wearing a cap with the logo of the energy company EQT and wanting some entertainment, handed the speaker some sheet music and asked him to sing. He obliged and did a respectable twist on the 12 Days of Christmas that included 10 reps a leaping, 9 senators dancing, 7 years not taxing, 5 golden PACS, and a speaker in your giving tree.

As he finished, the guests heartily applauded and raised their flutes in a toast to another year without having to pay a severance tax in Pennsylvania. Then they solemnly made a circle and stacked their right hands into the center and vowed to continue to fight a severance tax in 2016, no matter the cost.

Miss Smith turned from the window. She hoped for a better 2016 — one in which more funding for the local school would allow her to return to the work she loved — teaching art. And she also made a vow — to work with others to make sure the New Year would not be another year without the severance tax that makes sense to everybody who wasn’t invited to the drillers’ New Year.