For over 100 years West Virginia has exported its timber, coal and electricity to drive the U.S. economy with low cost energy and natural resources.

I attended the October interim legislative session and presented a position paper to double the gas severance tax from 5 percent to 10 percent and rebate 100 percent of the severance tax amount to all in-state use. This will lower our residential gas utility bills and help (with other efforts the legislators are pursuing) to attract industry, especially for lower cost gas feed stock.

Over 90 percent of the gas produced in West Virginia is exported. This proposal, even after the rebate, will initially produce over $100 million in additional state revenues, ALL coming from out of state! Better yet, as pipelines come on line over the next few years, production will double, raising severance tax revenues to over half a billion dollars per year. The WV Center on Budget and Policy has made presentations and written papers pointing out studies from universities and several commissioned by state legislatures, all showing severance tax amounts have very little effect, if any, on production.

Despite all their money and data, the gas industry has never been able to produce any credible studies to disprove this. All we hear from the gas industry are anecdotal statements: "Increasing severance tax on gas will cost jobs. We will just drill in states with lower severance taxes." The data and studies disagree.

The people need to take action and call or write their elected officials to support a doubling of the severance tax with a rebate for all in state use. Ask them if they support what is best for the people or what is best for special interests. Tell them your vote in the next election will depend on their vote.

Stephen McElroy

Bridgeport, W.Va.