Responding to overwhelming public support for enacting a severance tax on natural gas production, Governor Wolf and several members of the General Assembly have released severance tax proposals in 2015. Actual production results from 2014 show that these plans would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for schools, health care, environmental protection, and other critical needs.
Newly released gas production figures confirm that Pennsylvania is a natural gas production giant—number two in the country following only Texas. Conservatively, the natural gas produced in Pennsylvania had a market value of $13.9 billion in 2015. Yet Pennsylvania remains the only major oil- and gas-producing state without a severance tax.
Growth in both the number of wells and amount of production was strong in the second half of 2014, despite recent low prices. In October 2014, gas insiders said Marcellus operators would still make money even if gas prices remain low in the long term.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
This brief examines how much several of the new severance tax proposals would have raised had they been in place in 2014 (using a natural gas price of $3.49 per MCF – $1 less than the Henry Hub price).
Many signs point to continued increases in natural gas production. The numbers of permits issued and wells drilled increased from 2013 to 2014. Infrastructure and demand constraints are also resolving. The industry is developing additional pipeline capacity. Power plants in the region are switching from coal to natural gas, and a natural gas foreign export facility is opening in 2017. Increases in natural gas prices will only fuel more activity.
Gas production values in 2014 show how much revenue Pennsylvania continues to leave on the table by failing to enact a severance tax. As lawmakers and the governor negotiate the 2015-16 budget, a severance tax should be part of the solution.