3. Finally, West Virginia code has the severance tax on natural gas extraction set at 5 percent, and with a large number of tax credits the real and effective tax on natural gas extraction is only 3.2 percent. Sadly this is the lowest tax on natural gas extraction of our eight surrounding states.
Yet West Virginia is the largest producer of oil and natural gas east of the Mississippi River. It ranks 33rd in the nation for oil production and 11th for natural gas. Further, West Virginia University's Bureau for Business and Economic Research credited Marcellus Shale gas and related industries in the state with creating 7,600 jobs and $2.35 billion in business volume -- yet sadly with only $14 million in taxes in 2009 alone. We need new taxes on natural gas extraction.
To get ahead of future water contaminations in rural West Virginia our Legislature should impose a severance tax increase of 2 percent to a total tax of 7 percent with no additional tax breaks or credits and use the additional funds generated to set up a 25-year fund (It's Our Water Fund) to be used only to protect any West Virginians' water supplies contaminated by Marcellus Shale drilling. This fund could replace foundations of homes and bridges and roads that may be damaged by the future earthquakes that we will experience here.
Earthquakes are now known to have damaged homes in Texas, Ohio, Canada and in Holland as a result of Marcellus Shale drilling and deep well dumping of Marcellus Shale brine and other toxic chemicals being stored here. These quakes are also disrupting our aquifers.
Then in 25 years if the fund has not been used to protect water supplies lost to contamination or damaged homes and out buildings and aquifers, then it should be turned over to the state Department of Transportation to continue to work to keep our roads and highways safe for travel.
Please ask your elected officials now working on the Elk River Toxic Spill to also use this disaster to amend our regulations on Marcellus Shale Drilling and our Tax Laws to protect the future of all of our most precious water supplies.
Ask for just three important changes to our current laws to assure that all the backyards across all of West Virginia have a right to fresh, natural, clear, cool water.
Cobb lives in Ireland, Lewis County.