Marcellus Shale windfall unspent
Act 13 funds not yet earmarked
Kelly B. Garrett
January 2, 2013
What are Butler County, boroughs and townships doing with the money they received in October from the state fees on Marcellus Shale natural gas? No one seems to know for sure just yet. A total of $204 million statewide in natural gas impact fees was raised through Act 13 this year. Of that total, the county got more than $897,000 and municipalities in the county got a total of $1.3 million, based on the number of natural gas wells in the municipalities and the surrounding areas. But neither the county nor a number of municipalities have yet to earmark any particular use for that money. Amy Wilson, county chief clerk, said the county has the money, but that the county commissioners have not decided yet how to use it. Ditto for Connoquenessing Township, which received the most money for a county municipality with $205,486, and the same for Karns City, which received just $221. Connoquenessing Township Secretary Brenda Davis said the money has been put in a reserve account, but the township supervisors have not decided how to spend the money. Davis said the state Public Utility Commission requires municipalities to report how they spend the money April 15. The PUC collected and distributed the fees. Randy McElravy, vice president of the Karns City borough council, said he expects council will decide what to do with the money after its reorganization meeting in January. Saxonburg and Mars also confirmed that they have not decided how they will spend the money that their boroughs received. Saxonburg got $3,592 and Mars got $4,513. According to Act 13, 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, stormwater 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.