Agency’s Request Sure to Lead to Deluge of Others

The head of the Fish and Boat Commission wants a slice of a proposed severance tax on Marcellus Shale development in order to provide for additional oversight and enforcement of streams and the creatures that populate them as the intensity of Marcellus activity ramps up.

According to the Commission’s most recent annual report its mission is to "protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities". It operates on a $48 million budget: 67% of its revenues comes from licenses and fees related to angling and boating. By and large this agency does not rely on tax dollars and a Penn State publication on the role of regulation in the Marcellus drilling industry states the Commission’s water quality officers "work with DEP personnel to monitor the impacts of drilling and other activities on stream quality and aquatic life, and offer input to DEP on regulatory decisions".

As the Commission’s Executive Director noted "the commission has a role in patrolling streams and can punish operations that cause pollution, but we don’t have the money to hire new additional staff". He’d even like to lower the price of fishing licenses because he feels the state has "priced itself out of the market…and would like to reduce those".

The predictable fallout of the Commission’s request will be to spur on other state agencies and municipalities to wrangle for a piece of the pie. And why not? The Game Commission has lands to maintain where there will be Marcellus drilling, local fire departments might have to respond to incidents, state and county roads will have to be maintained, etc. But if the Commission feels it needs to devote additional resources to water quality or slash the price of its licenses, the best place to do that would be on the existing balance sheet and not from a yet-to-be-created tax.