Phila. to get $1.3M from Marcellus Shale impact fee

Posted: October 16, 2012

HARRISBURG - Drilling rigs are hardly a part of Philadelphia's cityscape, but the city will nonetheless receive just shy of $1.3 million this year from the state's new impact fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Gov. Corbett released detailed numbers Monday about how much money every municipality and county will be allotted under the new law, which kicks the majority of the proceeds to drilling communities but also sends money to all counties for conservation, beautification, and other purposes.

Philadelphia ranked among the top 10 of 67 counties in the state for payouts, though there is no drilling within city limits.

The state has brought in $204 million since the legislature passed the fee this year. Sixty percent of that goes to drilling communities; the remainder is doled out to counties based on population. The governor's numbers are the first detailed breakdown of the fees.

"We are serious about becoming energy leaders in this country and in the world," Corbett said Monday at a news conference in the Capitol, repeating one of his oft-expressed goals for the state.

Philadelphia's share of the impact-fee pot comes to $1.29 million. The suburbs will also fare well. Bucks County will get $530,461; Chester County $423,255; Delaware County $474,238; and Montgomery County $678,613.

Checks are due to start going out within 10 days.

In parts of the state without drilling, such as Philadelphia, the impact fee law requires that the money be used to build or maintain greenways, recreational trails, open space and natural areas; for conservation and beautification projects; and for water resource management projects.

In drilling communities, proceeds from the impact fee must be used for purposes that include fixing roads and water and sewer infrastructure. In those communities, the law limited local zoning controls over drilling - and if a town's ordinances are deemed too restrictive under the new law, it will not receive funding until those rules are revised. That portion of the law has been challenged in state court.

Corbett, a Republican, along with the GOP-led legislature, opted for an impact fee rather than a tax on drilling, despite criticism from many Democrats as well as environmentalists and others that a fee would only capture a fraction of what a tax on natural-gas extraction could.

The governor and the more than two dozen legislators who joined him at his news conference Monday defended that path, saying the fee structure helped preserve a burgeoning industry while also requiring it to pay a fair price for extracting a valuable resource.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), the law's architect, said it ensures that those communities most impacted by drilling will receive the lion's share of the proceeds, rather than having the fees come into the state's general fund.

Scarnati, whose district includes drilling locales, said a five-figure check might not sound like a lot, but in a small community with a limited budget for road repairs and other impacts of drilling, that money is important.

"When you look at the impact fees going back to some of these townships . . . it makes a difference," said Scarnati. "It's a huge, huge game-changer."


Contact Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @AngelasInk.

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