State hands out Marcellus money
Kelly B. Garrett
October 23, 2012
Butler County and its municipalities will receive a total of $2.2 million in the first distribution of Marcellus Shale natural gas impact fees, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Monday. A total of $204 million has been raised statewide by the Act 13 fees, which are collected from energy companies based on the number of natural gas wells in a municipality and county. Butler County will get $897,339 and its municipalities will get a total of $1.3 million, according to the state Public Utility Commission, which is responsible for the collection and distribution of the Marcellus funds. Corbett held a Capitol news conference at which he and other state officials disclosed the breakdown for counties, townships and boroughs. Checks should be going out from the state treasury over the coming 10 days, they said. All 67 counties get a share of the money, as do the Fish and Boat Commission, the Transportation Department, the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies that have a role in regulating or dealing with the drilling industry. But 60 percent of the $204.2 million fund will go to 35 counties and nearly 1,500 municipalities County Commissioner Bill McCarrier said the almost $900,000 the county will receive from the impact fees is about the amount he had expected. Like township officials, McCarrier said the county has many uses for the money. “The cutbacks in human services and other areas are sure to see some of the money, although we haven’t yet determined where it will all go,” he said. “We’ll have to have some meetings and see who needs it most.” Terry Steinheiser, a township supervisor in Connoquenessing Township which will get more than $205,000 in fees — the most of any county municipality — said that earlier in the process he moved to not spend any of the money until the township actually gets it. The one project the supervisors have moved forward on is a traffic study of Route 68, which dissects much of the municipality. “There are many crashes on that road, and we have hired an engineer and consulting firm to study the road, and with all of the state and federal transportation cutbacks, getting this money will be a real help in paying for this study,” Steinheiser said. Jay Grinnell, a supervisor for Jackson Township, which will get more than $114,000, said the township has many uses for the money. “Our roads, our infrastructure — we have needs all over the place,” he said. Forward Township is set to receive $184,447. “We’re waiting to receive it, and then we’ll follow the guidelines to use it,” said Forward Supervisor David Lamperski. Lancaster is the fourth township to receive more than $100,000 with an allotment of $137,667. State Rep. Brian Ellis, R-11th, one of the original authors of the Act 13 legislation, said Monday that he is “encouraged” that impact fee revenues are higher than expected. “I’m excited that the level of money collected is more than we thought it would be, which means we have policy that protects our resources while encouraging growth in the natural gas industry,” Ellis said from Harrisburg. Ellis also said some of the municipalities that had been anticipating tax increases in the coming years may be able to eliminate those because of the money from the gas fees. “There are 13 ways the money can be spent by municipalities, including a reduction in taxes, so it is encouraging that many municipalities will be helped by this money,” he said. The county will get $741,351 with an additional $155,988 from the Marcellus Legacy Fund. Money from that fund is based on county population and is earmarked for the rehabilitation of green space and nature areas. Corbett said that counties and municipalities may spend this money on projects that stem from the impact of natural gas development such as: • Construction, repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and other infrastructure; • Water, storm water and sewer system construction and repair; • Emergency response preparedness, training, equipment, responder recruitment; • Preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface water supplies; • Records management, geographic information systems and information technology; • Projects which increase the availability of affordable housing to low-income residents; • Delivery of social services, including domestic relations, drug and alcohol treatment, job training and counseling; • Offsetting increased judicial system costs, including training; • Assistance to county conservation districts for inspection, oversight and enforcement of natural gas development; and • County or municipal planning. The impact fee requires gas drillers to pay $50,000 for each horizontally drilled well and $10,000 for each vertical well drilled through 2011. The money being distributed was linked to nearly 4,500 wells and covers drilling through 2011. The Associated Press contributed to this report.