Corbett’s Natural Gas Drilling Proposal Is Right On Track

Towanda Daily Review

Governor Tom Corbett’s 30-member Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission was created to rec­om­mend nat­ural gas drilling poli­cies.The members, made up of heads of state departments, an energy executive, environmentalists, local government officials and representatives from drilling companies, recently approved close to 100 policy recommendations. And the governor is listening.

Corbett unveiles an impressive plan for natural gas regulation, including proposing Pa.’s individual counties take responsibility for adopting an impact fee.

He suggests a two-step process in which the state would approve enabling legislation, setting the fee amount and uses for the revenue. Then counties with operating wells would have the choice of adopting or not adopting the per-well fee.

Corbett proposes that each Marcellus well pay an impact fee of $40,000 the first year of operation, $30,000 the second year; $20,000 the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through sixth years in counties that adopt the impact fee.

Most importantly, most of the money would stay at the local level. Counties would keep 75 percent – a figure it is estimated could approach $120 million in just one year. According to Corbett, whatever the fee brings in will go to the places that are feeling the impact.

The governor’s plan sees the remaining 25 percent share going to state agencies that respond to drilling-related issues. Legal uses for the money would range from road and bridge repairs, human services, courts and records management and geographic information systems.

Plus, under the proposal, a county could provide a fee credit up to 30 percent if a driller invests in natural gas fueling stations or public transit. Corbett also endorses recommendations made by his Advisory Commission to keep wells at a greater distance from water sources, increase well bonding requirements for drillers and double penalties for violations.

When the governor created the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, he said it was to “over­see how we can build around this new indus­try and how we can make cer­tain we do this while pro­tect­ing our lands, our drink­ing water, our air, and our com­mu­ni­ties, all the while grow­ing our workforce.” This recent proposal is certainly moving in the right direction.

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