Area municipalities set to receive impact fee money from gas drillers

June 13, 2013
Andy McNeil/Observer-Reporter A Marcellus gas well being drilled in Mt. Pleasant Township

Washington and Greene counties stand to collect big payouts from the $202.47 million Pennsylvania municipalities will share in 2012 impact fees from Marcellus shale gas drilling.

The state Public Utility Commission on Wednesday released how much each county, municipality and state agency will get from the fees over the next month.

Washington County will collect $4.7 million, second only to Bradford County in the northeast, which will get $7.3 million. Greene County will get $2.9 million, while Westmoreland and Fayette will receive $1.6 million and $1.3 million, respectively.

The announcement pleased state Sen. Tim Solobay, who said the impact fees, coupled with gaming funds from Meadows Racetrack & Casino, have made Washington County “the envy of everyone else across the commonwealth.”

“It’s so exciting for our county,” said Solobay. “When you tie that with the casino funds, that’s more than $26 million local officials have to put into their budgets for a multitude of things. It’s been a magnet for economic development and improvement in the region, and I only see it improving as time goes on.”

Townships in Washington and Greene counties are among the municipalities slated to get some of the highest payouts in the state, with Amwell Township earmarked to receive $593,491 and Chartiers Township slated to get $578,165. Cumberland Township in Greene County will get $787,151, with Center Township bringing in $509,000.

“It’s certainly a nice benefit to the township to mitigate some of the impacts that we’ve experienced from Marcellus shale in regard to maintaining roads and infrastructure in light of that,” said Chartiers Township business manager Jodi Noble.

Last year, the township earmarked its share for public safety, road and infrastructure and recreation and placed the balance, $132,000, in a capital reserve fund for Act 13-approved uses.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who signed Act 13 into law last year, issued a news release that reminded local governments that they can use their shares of the money on a variety of expenses related to natural gas development, including: construction, repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and other public infrastructure; water, storm water and sewer system construction and repair; emergency response preparedness, training, equipment and responder recruitment; preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface water supplies; and projects that increase the availability of affordable housing to low-income residents.

Chuck Morris, chairman of the Greene County commissioners, said he was happy with the funding, which dropped statewide from $204 million last year, but not as much as officials had feared.

“We’re happy to receive it. We believe we used the money wisely last year, and I believe we’ll use it wisely this year, as well,” said Morris, who noted commissioners just found out about the county’s share and have not determined how to spend the money coming in the latest round.

Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Z. Klaber said the statewide allocations, totaling more than $406 in 2011 and 2012, are “a vivid illustration and reminder of how safe, tightly regulated natural gas development is benefiting local communities, statewide programs and funding of government agencies. Our member companies are working each and every day to responsibly develop this clean-burning energy resource while also serving as good neighbors and community partners to ensure we get this historic opportunity right for all 12 million-plus Pennsylvanians.”

Of the $202.4 million generated in 2012, $28 million was directed to state agencies, $102.7 million to local governments and $71.8 million to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which goes to PennDOT for highway and bridge repairs, and other agencies.

Klaber went on to say that the impact fee represents a new, substantial revenue stream for local and state government agencies, and that the natural gas industry has generated more than $1.8 billion in tax revenues since 2006 while investing more than $500 million in road and infrastructure improvements and contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency response training and other community-based programming.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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