Counties Pleased With Plan

Michael Bradwell and Jon Stevens
Washington Observer Reporter

County commissioners liked what they heard Monday regarding Gov. Tom Corbett’s recommendation that counties directly affected by Marcellus Shale drilling could impose impact fees.According to information released by the Corbett administration, the governor’s proposed plan to regulate Pennsylvania’s gas-drilling industry would allow an impact fee of no more than $40,000 per well in a well’s first year. After that, the fee amount would decline, to $30,000 in the second year, $20,000 in the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through 10th years of production.

With 80 wells drilled in Washington County in the first half of 2011, the fees collected would be significant, particularly if drilling continues at the same pace.

Most of the money collected — 75 percent — would remain in drilling communities for a wide range of uses, while 25 percent would go to the state for environmental protection, road and bridge improvements, health studies, emergency management, pipeline inspection and the state fire commissioners.

Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi said he sees the plan as a good start, especially with the idea that 75 percent of collected impact fees would remain in the county and the municipalities where drilling occurs.”Whatever you want to call it, an impact fee, severance tax or just plan tax, my concern was that it was going to leave the locale where the gas is produced,” Maggi said. “It sounds like a good plan right now, because the money is going where (the impact) is being felt.”

Greene County Commission Chairwoman Pam Snyder said Monday she was happy Corbett agreed to do something regarding a fee.

“And I think it’s fair that 25 percent will go back to the state, especially if some of that money goes toward bolstering the Department of Environmental Protection for its regulatory mission.”

Although she said she would be in favor of the impact fee, she would need to take a harder look at what is being proposed.

“I would have to see how we go about adopting this and how the money is distributed,” she said. “Also, I have nothing to compare this to, and I would want our tax assessor to take a close look at this.”

But, she said based on what she initially knows of the plan, “I would vote to do it.”

Maggi said that according to a breakdown of the proposed fee he received from the governor’s administration, the 75 percent local portion would be divided among the county ( 36 percent), municipalities where the drilling is occurring (37 percent) and other municipalities that are near drilling activity and are impacted (27 percent).

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