County to implement gas well fee|
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Clearfield County Commissioners voted unanimously to advertise their intention of implementing the impact fee on Marcellus shale natural gas wells, at its meeting yesterday.
On Feb. 14, the state passed Act 13 of 2012 which allows for a local impact fee on natural gas wells along with new environmental regulations.
Counties have until April 14 to enact an ordinance to implement the fee that would be collected by the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission and divided up among counties, municipalities and state agencies.
The commissioners said several municipalities have asked when they were going to implement the fee and Lawrence Township sent a letter urging them to do so. By voting to advertise the ordinance, Solicitor Kim Kesner said it sends a message to the municipalities and residents that they intend to enact the impact fee.
"They (municipalities) have been waiting for this a long time and so have we," Commissioner John Sobel said.
If the county fails to implement the fee, a majority of the municipalities within the county or municipalities representing 50 percent of the county's population would have until June 13 to impose the fee.
Before an ordinance can be implemented, it has to be advertised once a week for three weeks, according to Commissioner Joan Robinson McMillen.
The fee is based on a sliding scale for 15 years for each well, with the fees dependant on the average price of natural gas for the prior calendar year.
The fee for 2011 is expected to be $50,000 per well, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania State Association of Townships.
The tax rate for conventional vertical wells is 20 percent of the rate of the unconventional horizontal wells and ends after 10 years.
Revenues from the fees would be split among state conservation districts, state agencies and local municipalities that implement the impact fee.
Municipalities are required to use revenue from the impact fee for road and bridge construction and maintenance, water, storm water and sewage system improvements, developing emergency management plans and environmental programs, preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface water, tax reduction and affordable housing projects or the creation of a capital reserve fund.
According to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, state agencies are funded from the fee as follows: conservation districts will receive $2.5 million from 2011 fees, $5 million for 2012 fees and $7.5 million for 2013 and a cost of living adjustment starting in 2014 thereafter. Half of these funds would be distributed equally among conservation districts, with the other half distributed consistent with the Conservation District Fund Allocation Program.
The Fish and Boat Commission would receive about $1 million for its review of drill permits; the PUC would receive about $1 million for administration of the program and for local ordinance enforcement; and the state Department of Environmental Protection would receive about $6 million for the administration of the act and enforcement of clean air and water regulations.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency would receive $750,000 for planning, training and coordination related to natural gas production; the Office of State Fire Commissioner would receive $750,000 for training and grant programs for first responders relating to natural gas production; and the state Department of Transportation would receive $1 million for rail freight assistance.
The Marcellus Legacy Fund for distribution for the Natural Gas Energy Development Program would receive $10 million for 2011, $7.5 million for 2012 and $2.5 million for 2013.
The Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund would receive $2.5 million for 2011 and $5 million for 2012 to support projects or provide rental assistance in host counties with the requirement that 50 percent be available in fifth through eighth class counties
After these agencies receive their funds approximately 60 percent of the remaining revenue would go to county and municipal governments based on the following formula: 36 percent to the host county distributed pro rata on the number of spud wells in the county relative to the number of spud wells statewide; host municipalities receive 37 percent of the distributed pro rata based on the number of spud wells in the municipality relative to the number of spud wells statewide with the remaining 27 percent being distributed to all municipalities in the host county with half of the funds being distributed among the host municipalities that are contiguous with a host municipality or are within five miles of a spud well, with the other half being distributed among all municipalities in the county based on relative populations and relative road miles.
The remaining 40 percent is deposited as follows: 20 percent to Commonwealth Financing Authority for grants for acid mine drainage, orphan or abandoned oil and gas well plugging, compliance with the Sewage Facilities Act, recreational projects, establishment of baseline water quality projects, watershed programs and up to 25 percent for flood control projects.
The Environmental Stewardship Fund would receive 10 percent; the Highway Bridge Improvement Restricted Account would receive 25 percent to be distributed to all counties to fund replacement or repair to locally owned at-risk bridges. Distribution is pro rata based on relative population.
Water and sewer projects would receive 25 percent with half to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority and half to the state H2O program.
Greenways, recreation, open space and comparable projects would receive 15 percent to be distributed to all counties pro rata based on relative population with a minimum allocation of $25,000.
Five percent of funds in 2011-2014 would go to the Department of Community and Economic Development for projects relating to refining or processing of natural gas or oil, all other funds after 2013 are allocated to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.
In other business, the commissioners voted to:
• approve the resignation of Ashley Simpson, mapper/tax assessment, the transfer of Diane MacTavish from part-time field assessor to full-time field assessor, and the probation completion of Melissa Kerlin, DC III/Controller's Office.
• approve the mutual aid agreement with Centre County regarding the housing of prisoners.
• approve the contract with Central Pennsylvania Community Action in the amount of $10,000 for the CPCA to administer the Chore Program that provides low-income residents with small home maintenance projects who are unable to perform them on their own.
• submit the letter of intent to apply for the Department of Justice OVW Safe Haven Grant.
• approve the agreement with the Central Counties Youth Center for the housing of juveniles.
• approve the following Liquid Fuels allocations: Beccaria Township, $2,330; DuBois City, $8,980; and Lawrence Township, $11,021.