PUC Says PA Strippers Reduced 2017 Impact Fee by $6.1 Million

Once again we’re talking about strippers. Uh, stripper *wells* that is. In 2012 Pennsylvania passed the Act 13 drilling law that includes an impact fee on wells targeting shale layers, including the Marcellus. Snyder Brothers, headquartered in PA, drills mostly conventional (vertical only) wells in southwestern PA. In 2011-2012 they drilled 45 vertical-only wells targeting the Marcellus. All 45 of the vertical-only wells were fracked. Initially those wells produced more than 90 thousand cubic feet per day (Mcf/day), but by December of the year in which they were drilled, the wells produced less than 90 Mcf/day. The way the 2012 Act 13 law is written, if a well produces less than 90 Mcf/day during “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/day, arguing the word “any” is not a get-out-tax-jail-free card. Snyder Bros. sued and after an appeal of the case, Snyder Bros. won the case in March 2017, exempting those wells from paying impact fees (see PA Court Says Snyder Bros Wells are Strippers, No Impact Fees Due). That sent the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) into a tizzy with claims the Act 13 impact fees are now in jeopardy. So the PUC appealed the case to the PA Supreme Court. The Supremes heard arguments in the case in April (see PA Supreme Court Takes a Close Look at Strippers…as in Wells). The PUC released its full impact fee revenue generated and disbursed report yesterday (see today’s lead story). The PUC reports that not only are the fees from the Snyder wells missing from the total, but fees for some wells from other drillers as well–some 318 wells in all. Those other drillers cite the Snyder Bros. case as evidence they don’t owe money on what they consider to be stripper wells. In fact, when you total it all up, the PUC says the impact fee revenue for 2017 would have been ~$6.1 million higher if the “missing” fees from those 318 wells were part of the mix…

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