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Jun 30, 2023, 2:53:36 PM6/30/23
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From: Bob Donnan <>
Date: Fri, Jun 30, 2023, 7:48 AM
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Exclusive: For Decades He Railed Against Fracking — Now His Wife Has a Type of Cancer Linked to Fracking Chemicals

For two decades, Ron Gulla has been speaking out about how fracking is harmful to human health. Last year, Gulla’s wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia — a condition that has been linked to exposure to toxic fracking chemicals.

By Suzanne Burdick, Ph.D. | the Defender | 6-29-23

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For two decades, Ron Gulla has been speaking out about how fracking is harmful to human health.

Last year, Gulla’s wife Laurel was diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukemia, a condition that has been linked to exposure to toxic fracking chemicals, he said.


“I’ve been documenting this for two decades and now it’s in my house,” Gulla told The Defender. “I prayed to God it wouldn’t happen. It did. I don’t know if my wife is going to survive. Now what’s going to happen to my two kids? I don’t know. My wife is at the Mayo Clinic right now getting more chemotherapy.”


Gulla was the second property owner in Pennsylvania to have horizontal gas well drilling done — from 2005 to 2007 — on his farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh.

The 67-year-old father and husband also was one of the first to speak out against fracking in Pennsylvania after his farm was contaminated by natural gas producer Range Resources.


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Photos: Drilling and fracking activities on the Gulla farm


Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, extracts natural oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure. Research shows that fracking chemicals can wind up in drinking water and harm human health.


Four gas wells were drilled on Gulla’s farm. Gulla — who had worked for a heavy equipment company and spent several years working in the oil and gas industry — said the lease he signed in 2002 that granted Range Resources permission to drill the wells stated the well would be vertical wells — yet two of the four were drilled horizontally.


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While both vertical and horizontal wells are dangerous, Gulla said, horizontally drilled wells may go farther — “they can go out miles,” he said — and the fracks can come up to the surface, exposing toxic chemicals to the topsoil and waterways.

The drillers used mill slag — a byproduct of steel manufacturing — to build a road to access one of the rigs. When it rained, water running off the road mixed with the slag and ran into the Gulla family’s water well.


That mill slag is toxic,” Gulla told CitizenVox in 2019. “There’s arsenic in it, there’s pieces of railroad tie in it, which has creosote [a toxic substance]. It has metal in it and plastic and all kinds of garbage. If you go and buy slag, it tells you right there on the back of it, don’t breathe the dust. It’s bad stuff.”


Gulla also saw fracking wastewater from well pads — the industrial sites where the drilling workers operated the rigs — filled with toxic chemicals flowing directly onto the soil and into a stream.


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He said he saw vegetation in the fish pond downhill from the well pads turn yellow and die. Then he noticed fish died — so did deer and neighboring cattle.


Compressor stations — which compress natural gas for pipeline transport — emit known toxins like benzene and toluene.


And drilling operations “always have to drill through the water aquifer,” Gulla told The Defender. “So it doesn’t matter what they’re drilling for, oil or gas, they always disrupt your water aquifer because you have to drill through it. And then they case it off [but] it doesn’t mean because they cased it off that they still didn’t contaminate it.”


“One of the major culprits of acute myeloid leukemia is exposure to benzene,” Gulla said.


A recent study in Environmental Pollution — the first to examine the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts fracking from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act — reported that from 2014 through 2021, 62-73% of reported fracking jobs each year used at least one chemical categorized under the Safe Drinking Water Act as harmful to human health and the environment.


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The chemicals include carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde and arsenic; possible carcinogens, such as acrylamide and naphthalene; and ethylene glycol, which can damage the kidneys, nerves and respiratory system.


According to the study, the fracking industry reported using at least 250 million pounds of ethylene glycol, 10 million pounds of naphthalene, 7.5 million pounds of benzene, 4.6 million pounds of acrylamide, 1.8 million pounds of formaldehyde, and 590 pounds of arsenic from 2014 to 2021.

Gulla pointed out that benzene is also in the exhaust from diesel engines.


“We had more diesel engines on our property [because of the fracking]. We had more trucks going up and down the driveway, which was 30 yards away from our house.”

“I kept digging in and reading and researching and asking more questions,” Gulla said. “Then I found out they were exempt from everything. When I found out they were exempt from [the] Clean Air [Act], I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’”

“Long story short, the benzene from all the diesel fumes is just astronomical. The whole valley stunk. And I remember telling my wife, ‘Look, I’m going to work. Get outta here with the kids. Don’t stay here.’”

In 2019, Gulla relocated his family to Iowa to get away from the fracking pollution.

The Canon-McMillan School District in Washington County, which his children — now ages 16 and 18 — attended prior to relocating, saw six rare Ewing sarcoma cancer cases in a decade, including two diagnosed in 2018.


Washington County, Pennsylvania, is “one of the state’s most heavily fracked regions.”


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Gulla said, “When they were in middle school, I would ask them, ‘Hey do you see any kids with cancer? You hear about any kids having cancer?’ And they would tell me, ‘Yeah, Dad, there’s so-and-so and so-and-so …”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Human Toll” project in 2019 was able to identify 17 cases of cancer — including Ewing sarcoma — among the district’s students and alumni. Four of those were fatal.


‘If it were safe and benign, they wouldn’t have the exemptions’


Gulla said the gas and oil industries were “very smart about all this” by working with government officials to ensure they wouldn’t be held accountable to environmental laws.

“They had us sign leases back in 2002,” he said. “Well, [former President George W. ] Bush and [former Vice President Dick] Cheney were getting all of the exemptions in place for 2005, for the new energy policy that the industrymen put together.”


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Cheney — who formerly served as the CEO of Halliburton, a company that patented fracking technologies in the 1940s and is still one of the top suppliers of fracking fluids in the world — and Bush endorsed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.


Gulla said:

“And here they [the oil and gas companies] are exempt from [the] Clean Air [Act]Clean Water [Act], Safe Drinking Water [Act], the Right-to-Know [Act], the Superfund Act — which is hazardous cleanup — [and] TRI: Toxic Release Inventory.


“Those were all the red flags. They never told the landowners, the landman or woman, never said a word about them being exempt from anything. So liability is left upon the landowner and the community.

“Do you think I would’ve signed a lease if I’d known that they were exempt from everything?”

“If it were safe and benign, they wouldn’t have the exemptions,” Gulla said. “They’re [the oil and gas drilling industry] the only industry with those exemptions. They know there were problems. They know that they would create a lot of havoc and the lawyers are working with them and covering it all up.”

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“The truth has to come out and the law firms are the ones that really need to be held accountable because the law firms are making a lot of money representing the industry and covering all the lies up,” Gulla said.

Gulla said the gas industry in 2013 hosted a series of summit meetings at the Omni William Penn historic hotel in downtown Pittsburgh “for the law firms and the real estate companies.”


“Why would they do that?” he said. “This is RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations]. This is organized crime, that’s what this is.”


“As I’ve told many, many people,” Gulla said, “if I were lying, do you think Range Resources wouldn’t have sued me for slander?”


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Allegheny County's industry told to cut back on particulate emissions as Canadian wildfire smoke hits region

By Paul J. Gough | Pittsburgh Business Times | June 28, 2023 – Allegheny County’s highest pollution emitters were ordered Wednesday morning to take steps to cut back on particulate matter as the worst of the smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted into western Pennsylvania. A Mon Valley Pollution Episode Warning requires major emitters in the Pittsburgh region to take steps to reduce pollution. 

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Each of the nearly two dozen have had their temporary reduction plans approved by the Allegheny County Health Department well in advance. ACHD spokesperson Neil Ruhland said the companies are notified about the warning and the need to follow the previously approved mitigation plans. There isn’t real-time monitoring of their efforts, but ACHD requires facilities to provide data afterward and compares it to their plans. “If a company does not follow its mitigation plan, it opens them up to potential enforcement actions from the ACHD,” Ruhland said.



Iowa’s electric vehicle charging tax starts July 1
Heads up electric vehicle (EV) charge station owners: All non-residential EV charging that happens in the state of Iowa will be subject to a new 2.6 cents per kilowatt/hour fuel excise tax beginning July 1. The tax applies whether a station currently charges for electric fuel or gives it away, and whether a station is for exclusive owner use or is available to the public. It applies at every charge station except those located “at residences,” as the Iowa Department of Revenue states on its guidance page. This means EV owners charging their vehicles where they live – whether they rent or own their homes – are not subject to the tax. HF 767 also added an extra $130/year registration fee (in Pennsylvania that would bring the total to $175, not the proposed $290) to electric vehicles. This is an extremely blunt instrument, however, with no relation to actual miles driven. 



PECO, Philly’s energy provider, relies on fossil fuels and aging infrastructure

By Kartik Amarnath | The Philadelphia Inquirer | June 29, 2023

When it comes to clean energy solutions that can help our communities weather the climate crisis, the Philadelphia metropolitan region is lagging far behind. The metro area recently received yet another F grade for ozone pollution. More than 20% of Philadelphia’s children suffer from asthma; in Chester, that figure rises to almost 40%.

At the same time, our polluting energy grid has become more unaffordable and unreliable. Philadelphia’s energy burden — the percentage of a household’s income that goes to paying energy bills — is 86% higher than the national average. At the height of the pandemic, the region failed to meet state benchmarks for length of blackouts and restoring power, with the leading causes of power outages being equipment failures and tree-related issues.

The negative impacts of fossil fuels in Philadelphia and beyond can’t continue to be the norm.

We are quickly barreling toward a perfect storm of our own making. While local communities, nonprofits, businesses, and even elected officials have called for change, the region is still lagging behind largely because of disinterest from Peco, the region’s energy provider. The company has long heavily relied on fossil fuels and aging infrastructure to bring electricity to homes, while regularly hiking utility bills to levels unaffordable for many. Our future rests on the reversal of this trend of pollution and extraction to one of clean energy, resilient infrastructure, and a regenerative economy. And thankfully it can, so long as Peco gets its act together in these critical next few months.

This time is vital because in early 2024, Peco is required to present a four-year plan for procuring energy for review and approval by the state’s primary energy authority, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission. Known as the Default Service Plan, this is Peco’s plan for purchasing electricity from generating facilities like power plants and then selling this electricity at “reasonable” retail rates to customers. For too long, the company’s plans have been overwhelmingly dependent on energy from fossil fuels and business practices older than its crumbling infrastructure. When it comes to the survival of one of America’s great metropolitan regions, Peco’s “business as usual” has long overstayed its welcome.

Despite the urgency of the moment, without public pressure, we cannot expect much change. Peco customers have been demanding for years that the company make meaningful commitments to clean and renewable energy. Even now, groups like Philadelphia-based POWER Interfaith are working to encourage Peco to end its dependence on fossil fuels and push for a clean energy future in Pennsylvania.

Peco has responded with an old myth: that supporting an equitable and clean energy future, especially on a timeline that reflects the urgency of the climate crisis, is simply too expensive. But Peco’s business-as-usual model is already costing Philadelphians more, and the company has a reputation for overcharging households.

On the other hand, research on nearby states has demonstrated that if we meaningfully committed to distributed energy resources — small-scale, decentralized, and diverse clean energy projects like solar-plus-storage — it would reduce utility bills significantly for ratepayers. This approach would also add desperately needed reliability and resilience measures to an electricity grid increasingly characterized by life-threatening power outages brought to us by Peco’s lack of vision.

How do we make Peco accountable to a clean energy transition that serves everyone? Peco’s plan will be reviewed and approved by the PUC — and thanks to grassroots advocacy, this review process must be public. There will be public hearings, and we need people to turn out and speak up, especially those of us whose lives are most impacted by the region’s energy system. It will take concerted public effort to make full use of our seat at the table, instead of once again being on the menu.

We must work together to ensure Peco meets the needs of the times with a Default Service Plan that guarantees our energy grid becomes decarbonized, decentralized, diversified, and most importantly — democratized.

Kartik Amarnath is Mid-Atlantic regulatory director at national energy nonprofit Vote Solar.



Chesapeake Settlement Voided in Pennsylvania Natural Gas Royalty Dispute
By Andrew Baker | NGI | June 28, 2023 – A federal court has vacated a 2021 settlement that awarded more than $9 million to Pennsylvania landowners that alleged underpayment of royalties by Chesapeake Energy Corp. The 2021 settlement, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, was reached following Chesapeake’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.


Who is Blocking Climate Action in Pennsylvania?

By Audrey Carleton | Capital & Main | June 28, 2023

As chair of the key environmental committee in Pennsylvania’s newly Democratic House of Representatives, Greg Vitali was hopeful his committee could begin advancing meaningful climate policy after years of playing defense.

But even as political power in the Legislature has shifted, oil and gas lobbying groups and unions representing some of their workers continue to be a powerful force against climate legislation. And, Vitali says, they have managed to successfully block several climate bills in the Legislature — for now.

That is what he says happened on Tuesday, June 27, when Vitali abruptly canceled a scheduled vote for two bills to be considered by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which he chairs. One bill would prohibit the most energy-intensive form of cryptocurrency mining in Pennsylvania for two years. Another would require natural gas wells to be placed at least 2,500 feet from buildings or groundwater wells.

Vitali was late for the hearing. Looking flustered, he called roll, then told those gathered that a Democratic House leader had just phoned him to ask him to cancel the day’s votes on the two bills.

“OK, here’s the situation,” Vitali started. “Five minutes ago, I was called by my leadership and asked to not run these bills. I am deeply disappointed by this decision, but I am going to comply.”

“That’s all the business I have,” he continued. “This meeting is adjourned.”

Vitali told Capital & Main that his committee had, the night before, secured enough votes to pass both bills. “We were ready to go with two pieces of solid environmental legislation,” he said. “We put a lot of work into these bills … did the prep work, and I was, frankly, in my office ready to walk down to the meeting.”

The call came “about seven or eight minutes before the meeting,” he said. When he expressed resistance to canceling the votes, he was told “there may be possible consequences if you don’t,” Vitali said.

With a slim majority for the first time since 2010, House Democrats have celebrated passing more than 100 bills this year. Major climate bills are thus far not among them.

Several bills Vitali introduced this session were opposed by industry and labor groups like the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Mid Atlantic Laborers, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the latter two of whom represent workers in the energy sector. The natural gas well setback bill, HB 170, and previous setback proposals were opposed by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a natural gas trade group, and the American Petroleum Institute.

“The oil and gas industry, labor, they seem to win at every turn,” Vitali said. “If you look at the composition of the meeting room today you’re gonna see a lot of lobbyists or interest groups. If you look at the restaurants on session night, you’re gonna see a lot of meals being paid for by the interest groups. I think there’s a real problem.”

The House Democratic Caucus has not passed “a significant piece of environmental legislation this term,” Vitali said. Several climate bills that cleared House committees have yet to be called for votes before the full House, which is scheduled to recess on June 30 until September.

After Tuesday’s aborted meeting, environmentalists are left scratching their heads. The meeting’s cancellation could have been a maneuver tied to budget negotiations, some suspect, and other climate bills stalling before the House floor — such as a bill to restore regulators’ authority over oil and gas well bonds, which left committee in May — could be waiting for the right number of votes to successfully pass. With a 102-101 split, every vote counts.

“It was easy to get those bills out of committee because the Democrats control those committees by a margin of a number of votes,” said Dave Hess, former Department of Environmental Protection secretary and author of the PA Environment Digest, a daily news blog. “It’s much harder to make sure all the votes are in place to pass something that is more controversial.”

Hess is more optimistic that the natural gas setbacks and cryptocurrency mining bills, as well as other climate policies, could be voted on when the Legislature resumes in the fall.

Vitali said his committee will not “give up” on stalled bills.

“We will continue to work on these issues,” he said. “The problem is the same political dynamic will be there in the Fall, which is the unhealthy influence of special interest groups on environmental policy.”

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Senate, with its Republican majority, has successfully advanced a slate of bills that would narrow the power of environmental regulators — one that would limit the conditions under which citizens could appeal environmental permit decisions with a state judicial body, the Environmental Hearing Board, and another that would take the word “protection” out of the Department of Environmental Protection’s name.

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee recently advanced a bill that would make it easier for the state to build a fossil-fuel powered hydrogen hub by pursuing state authority over CO2 injection wells. In an unrelated hearing of that committee on Monday to confirm Acting DEP Secretary Rich Negrin, chairman Eugene Yaw (R) expressed discontent with HB 170, the setbacks bill, signaling an uphill battle for the legislation even if it had made it out of the House sister committee.

Several key voices in the Senate have personal ties to the oil and gas industry, throwing another wrench in the future of environmental legislation. Yaw, chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and vocal proponent for anti-regulatory policy, has leased his own land to oil and gas companies. The son of Senate Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R) is a lobbyist who represents the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil Coalition, a conventional oil industry trade group. Meanwhile, the trade groups that have opposed climate bills have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying in the first few months of 2023 alone.

Charles McPhedran, senior attorney in Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program, called the canceled vote on HB 1476, the cryptocurrency moratorium, a “step sideways” in the path toward passing sound regulations on the energy-intensive industry. “We expect to see more steps forward in the future. The fact that the members of this House committee were prepared to vote to move this bill forward is encouraging.”

Rep. Danielle Friel-Otten (D), prime sponsor of HB 170, the natural gas setbacks bill, did not immediately respond to Capital & Main’s request for comment.

But to groups on the front lines of oil and gas development, whom the bill would have impacted firsthand, the canceled vote comes at the expense of resident safety.

“It seems to me that Pennsylvanians cannot depend on … the Pennsylvania Legislature to defend public health and protect Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air, pure water and a safe environment,” said Ned Ketyer, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, which supports HB 170. “It appears we are on our own.”


Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom year may go bust

By Anthony Hennen | The Center Square | June 29, 2023

A boom year from natural gas impact fees in 2022 could be followed by a dramatic drop in payments, according to a recent analysis.

The data suggests that, rather than setting a new floor and bringing in steady funding in the future, recent record-setting payments are a blip.

The analysis, from the Independent Fiscal Office, is a sobering warning to counties and municipalities that get millions from the fee payments.

“Impact fee revenues for (calendar year) 2023 are estimated to range from $180 million to $185 million, a reduction of $94 million to $99 million from the prior year, and the largest year-over-year decline since the fee’s inception,” the IFO report noted.

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That 33%-35% decline wouldn’t be the lowest in recent years, however. In 2020, a slowdown due to the pandemic meant only $146 million in payments. The lowest payments of the recent past have been in 2020 and the $173 million of payments in 2016, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The report puts a damper on last week’s news of $279 million in payments for 2022, as The Center Square previously reported, up 19% from 2021.

The expected revenue drop in 2023 has two driving forces: lower natural gas prices and fewer wells drilled.

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Images from the archives

In 2022, the natural gas price hit “the highest annual average since the impact fee’s inception,” the IFO noted, at $6.64. For 2023, the office estimates the price will be $2.85, meaning that new well fees would fall 25% and fees for wells in the second and third years of operation would fall 36%.

Payments are also driven by new wells, but growth in the natural gas industry is petering out. New wells pay higher fees, but 22% fewer wells have been drilled from January to June compared to a year ago. While a horizontal well paid more than $69,000 in fees in its first year, that falls to $57,500 in year three and $23,000 for years 4-10.


Let’s compare Pennsylvania’s ‘Impact Fee’ with a ‘Severance Tax’ in Texas and West Virginia:

Transparency – State Revenue and Spending
By Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts | Comptroller.Texas.Gov

A Story of Volatility in Revenue and Prices

Severance taxes make up the most volatile tax revenue category. The average annual rate of growth of severance taxes for the last 26 years was 10.4 percent; however, the highest annual growth was 115.9 percent in FY 2022 and the deepest decline was 52.6 percent in FY 2002.

Severance taxes consist of oil and natural tax production taxes. FY 2022 collections totaled $10.83 billion – the highest annual collections on record – and contributed 14 percent to total tax collections.

2022: Pennsylvania = $279 Million | Texas = $10.83 Billion

That’s 39-times more O&G revenue!  Or put another way, Pennsylvania only collected 2.6% as much from oil & gas production. Texas charts: 

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TEXAS: The oil production tax is levied at 4.6 percent of value, and the natural gas production tax is levied at 7.5 percent of value.


Who is responsible for paying this tax?

Natural gas taxes are primarily paid by a producer. Depending on the contract between producer and purchaser, both parties can agree that a purchaser will pay the natural gas taxes.


·         Gas: 7.5 percent (.075) of market value of gas.

·         Condensate Production Tax: 4.6 percent (.046) of market value of condensate.

·         Regulatory Fee: For report periods September 2001 and later, .000667 per thousand cubic feet of gas produced.



West Virginia has collected $1.3B more than estimated in taxes, fees for year
June 2, 2023 – “This incredible surplus will allow us to continue making wise investments in our roads, schools, water systems, broadband, economic development, and much more," West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said. The largest overage compared to estimates this fiscal year has come from severance tax.

Gov. Justice says West Virginia breaks all-time state record for revenue collections through May

June 1, 2023 – Earlier this year, Gov. Justice signed into law the largest tax cut in state history, returning over $750 million to hardworking West Virginians through income tax reductions, with triggers built in for more cuts in the future. 

Mountain State Spotlight
April 10, 2023 – In the 2020 fiscal year, West Virginia’s state and local governments collected roughly $343 million in (all) severance taxes. Two years later, they collected $840 million. And for the current fiscal year, West Virginia has already collected $787 million in severance taxes, putting it on track to collect more than a billion dollars before the end of June. Lawmakers have used the surplus to justify income tax cuts. The state currently applies a 5% tax on natural gas.

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It's probably much higher amount for the 2022 calendar year, since this West Virginia fiscal year report doesn’t include the 2nd Half of 2022 that featured much higher fossil gas commodity prices.




Oil and Gas Severance Tax State by State
A Severance Tax is defined as a tax imposed on the removal of oil and gas within a taxing jurisdiction. An oil severance tax is typically imposed in oil-producing states within the U.S. Not all states have a severance tax. Some jurisdictions use terms like “gross production tax” such as Oklahoma. We handle severance tax “reviews” for our clients in oil & gas, finding exemptions and refunds for them.

·         Arkansas Oil Severance Taxes

·         Colorado Oil Severance Taxes

·         Kansas Oil Severance Taxes

·         Kentucky Oil Severance Taxes

·         Louisiana Oil Severance Taxes

·         New Mexico Oil Severance Taxes

·         North Dakota Oil Severance Taxes

·         Ohio Oil Severance Taxes

·         Oklahoma Oil Severance Taxes

·         South Dakota Oil Severance Taxes

·         Utah Oil Severance Taxes

·         West Virginia Oil Severance Taxes

·         Wyoming Oil Severance Taxes



Opposition continues on proposed Yough river power plant

By Joe Napsha | TRIBLive | June 28, 2023 – A proposed natural gas-fueled power plant a few miles north of West Newton would pump more pollution into a region that already has poor air quality, environmentalists and activists said at a community meeting this week. More than 100 people attended the meeting organized by the Environmental Health Project of Pittsburgh, which detailed some of the concerns posed by residents about the plant proposed for Elizabeth Township. Lisa Graves Marcucci, Pennsylvania community coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project, said the health department’s decision to grant the installation permit was flawed, based on the pollution that the plant will emit. A virtual hearing is scheduled for July 24 - 28 on the appeal and the case most likely will take the entire week. Information can be found on the Allegheny County Health Department website (

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