Causer Meets with Governor Wolf, Outlines Priorities for Rural PA

repcauserHARRISBURG – Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) met with Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday morning to talk about several key issues for rural Pennsylvania, including overregulation of the conventional oil and gas industries, development of a rural community college, and fair funding for rural school districts and communities with high amounts of state-owned lands.

“It is important for the governor to understand the unique challenges facing people in rural Pennsylvania and even more important for him to recognize how some of his proposed policies may impact our region,” Causer said. “I appreciated the opportunity to bring these issues to his attention.”

Causer explained the region’s reliance on conventional oil and gas drilling, which has been going on for 150 years but is now at risk because the industry is being lumped into the same regulatory requirements as the large-scale unconventional drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

“I stressed to the governor that there are vast differences in these drilling operations and a failure to implement separate regulations will drive our conventional operators out of business, taking thousands of good-paying jobs with them,” Causer said.

Last year, Causer led the effort to pass a law requiring the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to enact separate regulations that are reasonable and relevant to each type of activity. Additionally, Causer is supportive of legislation to establish a Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council which would be charged with studying existing regulations and assisting the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.

He also briefed the governor on efforts to establish a rural community college to better serve the needs of students of all ages and employers in the area. Although development of the college was authorized in legislation last year, and $1.2 million was dedicated to help with start-up costs, the Department of Education has refused to release the funding.

“The governor seemed perplexed about why the money hadn’t been released and indicated he would look into it,” Causer said. “With his background in business and manufacturing, he should understand why making community college services available here is so important.”

Finally, he talked about the fiscal challenges facing rural communities and, in particular, school districts.

“The state’s Basic Education Funding Commission is planning to make recommendations later this year about how to revise the state’s funding formula to make it more ‘fair,’ but I am deeply concerned that could mean a loss in state funds for all of our rural schools that are already struggling,” Causer said. “I specifically talked to the governor about the plight of the Austin Area School District, which is the largest district geographically but the smallest in student population, and has a very limited tax base since 90 percent of the land in the district is owned by the state.”

Causer then outlined for the governor his land tax fairness proposals that would go a long way toward helping the Austin Area School District and communities across the Northern Tier.

House Bill 344 would increase the state’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) on state-owned forest and game lands from $3.60 per acre to $6 per acre. The PILT is divided equally among the municipalities, school districts and counties in which the land is located and applies to lands under the control of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).

House Bill 343 would call for 20 percent of total revenue collected from the sale of timber, oil and natural gas on most state-owned lands to be deposited into a restricted fund for disbursement to local governments across the Commonwealth, proportionally based on the number of acres of state land in each municipality, school district and county.

Causer also extended the governor an invitation to visit the region. “The more our state’s leaders understand rural Pennsylvania, the better off we will be. I hope he takes me up on the offer.”

Posted by on Feb 28 2015. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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