By Parth Vaishnav (left) & Nathaniel Horner (right) of Carnegie Mellon University
A common argument against enacting a severance tax on shale gas in Pennsylvania is that the additional cost will cause the industry to leave the state. As graduate students in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, we decided to test that idea.
We found that replacing the state's current drilling impact fee with a 5% severance tax would be very unlikely to inhibit new drilling. Our study looks at what such a tax would mean on a driller's internal rate of return (IRR) and how that would influence drilling decisions. What we find is that while a severance tax would decrease a well's IRR, as does the impact fee, the decrease is rather small — making wells still quite profitable for drillers.