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Pickett Says Impact Fee to Address Concerns of Local Communities
2/8/2012
Pickett Says Impact Fee to Address Concerns of Local Communities

HARRISBURG – To ensure that local communities have resources available to help offset the impacts caused by drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale region, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) today voted in favor of legislation in the state House to allow counties the option to impose a local impact fee.

Under House Bill 1950, counties will have the authority to impose an impact tax on natural gas drilling companies within their areas. That revenue will be split between the communities hosting wells and the Commonwealth for a variety of infrastructure and environmental programs.

“The large majority of Pennsylvanians support an impact fee to directly deal with the effects of drilling in our communities,” Pickett said. “Although drilling has given way to tremendous economic development opportunities, our communities need financial assistance in dealing with its impacts, including road and bridge repair and to address housing shortages caused by the influx of new residents.”

At the local level, 60 percent of the fee remaining after state allocations are made will be used for local roads and bridges, water and sewer system construction and/or repair, emergency response for training, equipment and/or recruitment, preservation of water supplies, projects aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing, county conservation districts, delivery of social services, local planning, local tax reduction, and training for local workers to obtain jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Specifically, Pickett pointed out that 50 percent of the revenue directed to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency must stay in fifth through eighth-class counties, including Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna counties.

At the state level, the impact fee revenue will benefit conservation districts; the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for administration of the act and enforcement of clean air and water statutes; the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) for emergency response planning, training and coordination related to natural gas production from unconventional wells; and to the Office of the State Fire Commissioner for the development, delivery and sustainment of training and grant programs for first responders.

“The inclusion of an impact fee in this legislation was important; however, the bill contains many important environmental safeguards to ensure that drilling companies are held to strict standards when drilling,” Pickett said. “I believe it’s imperative that we achieve a delicate balance between economic development and good jobs for our residents and ensuring our natural resources. This bill helps set the right tone for that balance.”

Those regulatory changes include upgrades to the state’s Oil and Gas Act, namely increases in setback distances and other safeguards to ensure industry accountability. Among those are a public listing of all chemicals used in the fracking process and regulations to address the safe transport of wastewater from drilling sites.

To help encourage the use of natural gas for environmental initiatives, a small portion of the fee will be used to help transition traditional fuel-powered vehicles to clean natural gas, thereby helping to reduce air emissions and help grow this innovative industry.

Also included in the compromise plan is a proposal Pickett has sponsored to help protect water quality near drilling sites. The legislation will expand the distance where pollution of a water supply is presumed to be caused by an oil or gas well drilling operation. Current state law permits DEP to presume a water supply has been contaminated by an oil or gas well drilling operation if it is within 1,000 feet of an oil or gas well. This bill will extend that distance to 2,500 feet.

In addition, a water supply must be tested both before and after drilling has occurred. Additionally, this bill will extend the timeframe for when a landowner can claim damage to the water supply from six months to 12 months.

The bill is supported by both local government and environmental advocacy organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Growing Greener Coalition, the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The measure now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

State Representative Tina Pickett
110th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Jennifer Keaton
jkeaton@pahousegop.com
717.705.2094
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