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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Corbett opens shale fee window a crack


It appears that Jesse White's pressure to allow for local impact fees to be demanded by drillers and frackers is working.

BY ROBERT SWIFT (HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF)


From http://thetimes-tribune. com



HARRISBURG - Gov. Tom Corbett showed a new willingness to discuss a potential local fee on natural gas drillers Wednesday as a way to help communities in the Marcellus Shale boom areas.


He emphasized that any future fee discussion with lawmakers would hinge on what recommendations come out of the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which will meet for the first time Friday. The commission has until July 22 to make its recommendations.


The 30-member commission has no representation from Northeast Pennsylvania. However, it is possible Mr. Corbett's nominee for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Richard J. Allan, a commercial recycler with Luzerne County ties - could take a seat on the commission.


Mr. Corbett further set a parameter for such a discussion, saying he thinks any fee revenue should go to local communities rather than the all-purpose state General Fund. He pointed out that gas drillers are already helping communities in which they operate with road-rebuilding projects.


Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, the governor indicated that his comments on the fee shouldn't be viewed as relaxing his pronounced opposition to a state severance tax on natural gas production. And he called a fee speculative at this stage.


"I don't want you to confuse a fee with the tax," Mr. Corbett said.


During a speech last week before the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Corbett said that a severance tax would cause the drilling industry to leave Pennsylvania. It reaffirmed a position he took during last year's gubernatorial campaign.


In recent months, a Republican Senate leader has suggested letting local governments charge so-called impact fees to help offset the cost that drilling operations have on municipal-financed road repairs, water usage and emergency response. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, has been the most vocal on the subject saying impact fees could be considered as part of a Marcellus Shale package that also addresses local zoning, natural gas pipeline protection and workplace safety.


"I'm pleased to hear he (Mr. Corbett) is willing to consider how we can target resources for communities," said Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp.


Sen. John Gordner, R-27, Berwick, said he thinks support exists in both legislative chambers for a fee.
The Senate GOP caucus is drafting a fee proposal. said Scarnati aide Drew Crompton.


"We have no interest in pre-empting the (shale) commission," he added, "but we believe the issue should be addressed sooner than later."


GOP senators are interested in having a portion of fee revenue pay for the type of environmental projects that the state Growing Greener Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund have funded during the past decade, Mr. Crompton said.


A 1990 state law allows municipalities to levy impact fees to cover off-site transportation improvements near new developments. But the law requires a municipality to take a number of costly steps, such as having a comprehensive plan and road analysis, so only a few municipalities have enacted a transportation impact fee ordinance.


Contact the writer: rswift@timesshamrock.com

http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com


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