McInnis lowers Pennsylvania gas boom on Ritter

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who bypassed an opportunity to levy a tax on natural gas drilled in his state, has the right approach to drilling, Scott McInnis said.

McInnis, a Republican who wants to be Colorado governor, pointed to Pennsylvania as a place handling natural gas differently,  and better, than Colorado.

He and other Republicans have been critical of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s handling of energy issues, especially new rules on drilling.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer dismissed McInnis’ criticism by asking, “Suddenly he’s a lobbyist for Pennsylvania? How about a little championing of Colorado?”

Pennsylvania’s approach has made it the new “hot spot ” for drilling, McInnis said Friday.

Natural gas is “the new steel,” a legislator told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Rendell, a Democrat, had planned to levy taxes on natural gas to help the state balance its budget as companies moved in to tap the Marcellus shale formation. Rendell ultimately decided against the tax.

McInnis said he wasn’t advocating tax reductions as a way of attracting drilling back to Colorado, and he acknowledged that the price of the commodity has discouraged the expensive business of exploring for gas. Once prices rise enough to encourage more drilling, though, Colorado needs to offer something to bring back business, he said.

“We’ve got to do something to match” Pennsylvania and other states, he said. “Let’s at least be competitive on permit turnaround time.”

Under Colorado’s new rules, a permit can be issued 60 days after application, McInnis said. In Wyoming, a similar permit could be issued after seven days.

The slowdown not only discourages drilling, he said. It also slows the rate at which state coffers can be replenished during the decline, over time, of well production and serverance tax revenue.

That’s why it’s important to keep drilling, McInnis said.

Colorado’s current policy will have beneficial economic and environmental effects, Dreyer said.

“Gov. Ritter is protecting water quality while assuring that natural gas development continues in Colorado,” he said.

McInnis got some support from his Republican opposition for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, state Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, the Senate minority leader.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, is “buddies with Barack Obama, too,” Penry said, “but he’s smart enough to embrace the jobs, energy and severance tax dollars that a thriving energy sector bring.”

Ritter would do well to emulate Pennsylvania, McInnis said.

“Rendell went out and did his homework,” he said. Ritter “is too damn proud to do that.”


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