Impact fee hitting new heights with 2019 distribution

Pictured is a natural gas well in Wells Township, as visible from Coryland Road.

Pennsylvania communities will be receiving the largest impact fee distribution to date, according to an announcement made Thursday by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

There will be $242,964,000 distributed from the natural gas industry tax — $134,740,050 to municipalities and $89,826,700 to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which supports highway, water and sewer, environmental, and other projects. An additional $8,866,900 will go to municipalities and counties following a Dec. 28 decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding an initial PUC order that wells must pay out an impact fee “if their production exceeds 90,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day for even one month of the year.” This reversed a Commonwealth Court decision handed down in March of 2017 resulting from an appeal of the initial PUC order issued in June 2015, according to court documents.

Around $33.4 million more is being given out compared to last year, which PUC officials attribute to an increase in the number of active natural gas wells, going from 8,518 in 2017 to 9,560 in 2018. Range Resources Appalachia LLC was the top producer of impact fee revenue with $32,670,100 followed by EQT Production Co. ($24,751,900), Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. ($20,006,700), Chesapeake Appalachia LLC ($18,277,500), SWN Production Company LLC ($15,591,100), Repsol Oil & Gas USA LLC ($14,211,900), and Seneca Resources Corp. ($13,045,100), according to the PUC.

Bradford County will receive the third largest distribution of impact fee money with $6,208,381.56, behind Washington ($8,425,366.36) and Susquehanna ($7,184,542.26) counties. Sullivan County will receive $679,780.

According to state Rep. Tina Pickett (R-110), municipalities will receive $7.6 million in Bradford County and $1.2 million in Sullivan County.

“Impact fee revenues for our three-county region (Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna) have increased by nearly $5 million, and that is good news for local municipalities as nearly all of them will receive a larger check this year,” Pickett said. “As long as drilling is occurring, impact fee revenue will help our local governments deal with the effects caused by the activity in their communities.”

In a statement following Thursday’s announcement, state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) said, “Over the past eight years, Bradford, Lycoming and Susquehanna counties again ranked among the highest recipients of Act 13 revenues. The impact tax is working. In fact, our state tax brings in more money than the severance taxes in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and West Virginia combined. The benefit to my rural Senate district, and rural Pennsylvania as a whole, is immeasurable.”

Around $1.7 billion in impact fee money has been distributed across Pennsylvania over the past eight years.

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