PA PUC Wants Act 13 Language Changed to Avoid Stripper Abuse

It seems the controversy in Pennsylvania over the Snyder Brothers’ strippers isn’t going to end any time soon. No, not those kinds of strippers, silly! We’re talking about stripper wells, which are defined in PA as wells that produce less than 90 thousand cubic feet (Mcf) for a one month period. Stripper wells are vertical wells that don’t produce nearly as much gas as horizontal shale wells. In 2012 PA passed the Act 13 law that includes a fee on wells targeting shale layers, including the Marcellus. And here’s where it gets a little complicated. Snyder Brothers drills mostly conventional (vertical only) wells. In 2011-2012 they drilled 45 vertical-only wells, but targeting the Marcellus (all of them fracked). Initially those wells produced more than 90 Mcf/month, but by December of the year they were drilled, they produced less than 90 Mcf. The way the 2012 Act 13 law is written, if a well produces less than 90 Mcf/month for “any” month it is considered a stripper well and exempt from paying the impact fee. The state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) assessed the fee anyway because for 11 months the wells produced more than 90 Mcf. The argument back and forth is whether the intent was “any single month” or not as the trigger to exempt a well from paying the fee. Snyder Brothers went to court and in March, they won, exempting those wells from impact fees (see PA Court Says Snyder Bros Wells are Strippers, No Impact Fees Due). Now the PUC is (a) mad, and (b) worried that other drillers may use the court ruling to argue they don’t owe impact fees. So the PUC is doing two things: (1) The PUC appealed the lost case. (2) The PUC is asking Gov. Wolf, and the legislature, to “fix” the language in the original 2012 Act 13 law, to slant it in their favor…

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