PA Lawmakers Close to Passing New Drilling Rules, Impact Fee

Pennsylvania lawmakers are getting close to passage of legislation that would adopt many of the recommendations from Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, including an impact fee on wells and including a measure that would supersede some local drilling ordinances.

Legislation that could provide for state preemption of local gas drilling ordinances won approval from a House committee Wednesday on a party-line vote.

The measure approved 15 to 10 by the Finance Committee would amend the 1984 Oil and Gas Act to supercede local drilling ordinances in areas where the state has an "appropriate" regulation, according to a committee bill summary.

The bill contains Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to give counties with Marcellus wells the option of adopting an impact fee on drillers with 75 percent of the fee revenue going for local uses ranging from road repair to affordable housing and court budgets.

Local governments would have difficulty keeping wells away from residential areas and schools with the bill’s preemption provision, said Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, the ranking Democrat on the panel.

"The bill strips from local governments what little power they have to locate wells," she added.

The sponsor, Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Lyndora, said the bill would set state standards for the nearly 50 percent of municipalities that don’t have gas ordinances.

The bill provides that each well pay an impact fee up to $40,000 the first year of operation, $30,000 the second year, $20,000 the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through 10th years.

It would implement a number of recommendations concerning environmental protection made last summer by the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.*

*Wilkes-Barre The Citizens’ Voice (Nov 3, 2011) – County gas drilling impact fee gets boost in committee vote