AMONG THE MANY boneheaded moves during the recent state budget crisis, the one we fear will come back to haunt us in unexpected ways is the failure to impose a tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the state.

The tax started out as a pet idea of Gov. Rendell, who acknowledged a "gold rush" on gas extraction in the state and wisely pushed for a severance tax on gas extraction that would have brought $634 million into a desperate state.

Lawmakers successfully pushed back, claiming that it would hinder development.

But a recent report by ProPublica, a nonprofit public-interest journalism Web site, uncovered problems concerning contamination from wastewater resulting from such extraction. According to the story (published in the Daily News last week), the state Department of Environmental Protection says that the Monongahela River, a drinking-water source for 350,000 people, has been contaminated by wastewater from the natural gas industry. Other problems have been linked to gas drilling, including methane leaks that have impacted water in seven counties.

Since the budget process is soon to start up again, we urge the governor to push anew for this tax, and while he's at it, look into imposing an environmental-impact surcharge. (For the full story, go to www.propublica.org and search for "Monongahela River.")