NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Thursday, Governor Wolf signed a multi-million dollar fracking tax credit bill into law.
The bipartisan legislation will pave the way for new manufacturing industry clusters throughout northeastern PA. Regional and statewide leaders gathered at Luzerne Community College to celebrate what they’re calling a landmark legislative achievement.
But outside the celebration, activists questioned its environmental impacts. Governor Wolf signed HB 732 into law, establishing the local resource manufacturing tax credit to attract new companies to Pennsylvania.
“On behalf of the working families of northeastern Pennsylvania, thank you Governor Wolf, thank you for giving Luzerne County a fair shot at good jobs and a brighter economic future,” Senator John Yudichak said.
Supporters of the bill say the tax credit will attract private investment in Pennsylvania manufacturing facilities that use dry natural gas to produce fertilizer and other petrochemical products.
To qualify, companies are required to invest $400 million in the construction of a new manufacturing facility, create 800 new and permanent jobs, pay prevailing wages and benefits, and use more environmentally friendly extraction methods like carbon capture, a cleaner version of fracking.
“We can create energy jobs and protect the environment,” Yudichak said.
But not everyone likes the idea. Protesters questioned the environmental impacts, arguing the bill will incentivize fracking for the next 25 years.
“You’re now locking Pennsylvania into a gas dependent economy. That’s not where the economy of Pennsylvania needs to go. We need to cut down on fracking, methane emissions for the sake of our climate,” Diana Dakey of Dalton said.
Scott Cannon with Action Together, says while the bill will create jobs, no one is looking at the health effects. Studies funded by Wolf’s administration on the potential health impacts of the natural gas industry, are not yet complete.
“If you live near one of these facilities, you’re going to be breathing in benzene, toluene, formaldehyde and other VOCs that are harmful to your health,” Cannon said.
“We do understand the environmental concerns, but these resources can be protected and they can be done safely,” Northeast PA Building and Construction Trades Council President Warren Faust said.
Brown field sites and old mine-stored land in the area are being considered for construction. The Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association’s economic analysis of the bill estimates that building facilities under the provisions of the legislation would generate more than 4,400 jobs and $1.6 billion in economic benefits.