Several Central Pennsylvania Republican House Members Vote to Support Marcellus Shale Impact Fee Legislation

HARRISBURG – Several north central Pennsylvania House Republican members voted in favor of the conference committee report on House Bill 1950 today, allowing for a Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee. The group consists of Rep. Rick Geist (R-Altoona), Rep. Dick Hess (R-Bedford/Fulton/Huntingdon), Rep. Jerry Stern (R-Blair) and Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Blair/Huntingdon/Mifflin). The legislation will help local communities deal with shale drilling impacts and aid statewide infrastructure and environmental initiatives.

“There was a lot of hard work put in by both chambers of the General Assembly in consultation with the governor,” said Geist, majority chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “There is a funding mechanism included to help repair and maintain roads, bridges, water supplies and sewer systems. It strikes a balance between the environmental and drilling interests and will help continue to create much-needed jobs.”

The bill’s estimated revenues from the shale impact fee are projected to reach $94 million in 2011 and $155 million in 2012 respectively, and revenues could be as high as $295 million in 2015. They would be distributed to local communities and these statewide groups including:

  • Commonwealth Financing Authority.
  • Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener).
  • Highway Bridge Improvement Restricted Account.
  • Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST).
  • Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund (HSCF).

The legislation also brings regulations up-to-date by addressing new technology in oil and gas development and provides greater protection and accountability.

Hess said one of the priorities in drafting this legislation was protecting the interests of local government, and it has support from several groups along that line.

“There was a lot of cooperation with the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, which went a long way toward reaching this compromise agreement,” said Hess. “There is no way that you can reach this goal without the interests of local communities being taken into account. The effort to help soil and water conservation in this bill is good as well. I am pleased with the end result.”

 Stern said jobs and the economic impact are key issues.

“The bill was a good solution to many of the diverse issues impacting our communities in relation to the Marcellus Shale industry,” said Stern. “House Bill 1950 provides the funding needed to address the environmental impacts of the natural gas extraction. In addition, we have tens of thousands of jobs that hinge on the success and sustainability of this industry. This bill will ensure that the industry, although held accountable with greater regulation and oversight, has the ability to grow and thrive.”

Fleck said this legislation needed to be completed as soon as possible.

“This legislation is long overdue,” said Fleck.  “It was truly a compromise bill that included all of the stakeholders.  I believe it was the best legislation we could expect to accomplish with this administration.  Prolonging the legislative process would have only further delayed our opportunity to reap the benefits of this fast-growing industry.”

The bill goes to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.

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