Counties Renew Push For Share Of Natural Gas ‘Impact Fee’

Potter County Today

erickcoolidgeThere’s a “solid commitment” among many leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to bring local governments a share of the revenue from natural gas production within their borders, but it’s no sure thing. That was the message from Doug Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), during that organization’s fall conference this week in Hershey. Hill recounted the legislature’s haggling over a proposed severance/production tax on gas produced from wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale formation. After lawmakers failed to reach an agreement, the tax was shelved. Several alternatives have been under discussion in recent weeks, Hill said.

One plan that appears to have broad support is an “impact fee” imposed on gas producers, in lieu of the severance/production tax. Legislative leaders agree that all, or most, of the revenue the fee would generate should be targeted to township and county governments where gas drilling is taking place and to environmental projects. Hill forecasted continued debate on these issues soon after the new legislature convenes in January and Tom Corbett begins his four-year term as governor. He also thanked those boards of commissioners — Potter County’s included — who were especially active in the CCAP effort to persuade lawmakers not to seize major portions of the revenue from a severance/production tax or impact fees for the state’s general fund.

One of those commissioners, Erick Coolidge (shown) from Tioga County, made an impassioned plea from the floor of the fall conference for Governor-elect Corbett and other key figures in Harrisburg to visit those regions where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling is impacting local communities.

“It is critically important that they see this for themselves and appreciate the impact this industry is having,” Coolidge said. “We have a resource that is under the ground in our counties that is being sold and it is benefiting others very handsomely. We simply need, and deserve, a portion of that revenue. We cannot miss this opportunity.”

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