Although the Pennsylvania House, Senate and governorship are all controlled by Republicans (for the first time in many years), they have not yet agreed on new legislation that puts stricter environmental controls in place over shale gas drilling in the state. The pending legislation, introduced last year after Gov. Tom Corbett appointed an advisory commission to propose new regulations, also includes an impact fee assessed on each new well drilled.
PA Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati believes all parties to the discussion are very close to agreement and hopes the legislation will be passed by early February, before it can get bogged down in election-year politicking.
Three-way negotiations between the Republican-controlled House and Senate and the governor have produced nearly complete agreement concerning such issues as protection of water supplies, Scarnati said. The sticking points remain the monetary size of the impact fee and whether it would be structured as a county optional fee provided for in a House-approved bill or the state-administered fee in a Senate-approved bill.
The senator voiced optimism that a fee proposal being discussed to give local municipalities some control over drilling activities yet allow for consistent application will break the impasse.
But he said the decision by five GOP senators from Southeastern Pennsylvania last month to vote for a floor amendment by Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticioke, for a higher $75,000 first-year impact fee shows the degree of support for using some fee revenue to meet statewide needs.
The Senate bill levies a $50,000 first-year fee; the House bill levies a $40,000 first-year fee.
The Senate will take a procedural vote to pave the way for a two-chamber conference committee when it reconvenes Jan. 17. The committee’s job is to hammer out a compromise to be presented to lawmakers on an up-or-down vote.*
*Wilkes-Barre The Citizens’ Voice (Jan 4, 2012) – Senate GOP leader sees opportunity to resolve impact fee impasse