Clearfield Commissioners Impose Gas Impact Fee

(Photo courtesy of Penn State Live)

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield County Commissioners unanimously voted, 3-0, to impose an ordinance to adopt an unconventional gas well impact fee at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen. “I think it is what’s best although I don’t think it’s perfect. My only dislike is that the PUC is the collection agency. “Anytime money goes to Harrisburg and must come back, the commissioners always worry . . . But we have to move forward in good faith.”

By phone Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) has plans to release payments in December. Commissioner Chairman John A. Sobel, like Robinson-McMillen, didn’t consider the ordinance “perfect” but said it would provide local municipalities with some measure of relief.

In February, Gov. Tom Corbett signed House Bill 1950, the Marcellus Shale bill, into law. The bill authorizes counties within the “shale regions” to adopt an impact fee. The impact fee will be used by local communities experiencing the actual impacts of unconventional shale gas development.

Recognizing the tight economics associated with low natural gas prices, the fee amount can fluctuate annually and is based on the average price of natural gas for the preceding year. If all eligible counties adopt the fee, estimates for revenue are approximately $180 million in 2012. The revenues are expected to climb to $211 million in 2013 and to $264 million in 2014, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Any state agency with a role in mitigating shale gas impacts, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the PUC, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, State Fire Commissioner and the Fish and Boat Commission, will receive fixed dollar amounts off the top of the revenues collected from the fee.

Afterward, 60 percent is directly districted to impacted counties. A significant percentage of the remaining 40 percent will also be distributed to those counties through either population- or road-mileage-based formulas or through the awarding of competitive grants, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.

The law’s provisions that authorized counties to adopt ordinances imposing an impact fee went into effect immediately. The majority of the law takes effect in 60 days from Feb. 14.

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