Susquehanna County to receive $4 million
BY ROBERT SWIFT
Bradford and Susquehanna counties are among the top recipients of impact fee revenue paid by drillers for natural gas production during 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett and state officials announced Monday.
Bradford County will receive $8.4 million for county-wide purposes to offset the impacts of drilling operations while another roughly $13 million is being distributed among municipalities in that county, said Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for the state Public Utility Commission, which collected the fees.
Susquehanna County will receive nearly $4 million for county-wide purposes and 40 municipalities in that county will receive their own fee revenue. Four municipalities in Susquehanna County – Auburn, Dimock, Rush and Springville townships – will receive $500,000, the maximum amount any municipality can receive in one year.
Wyoming County and its municipalities will stand to get more than $2 million, with the county earmarked for $881,000 and individual municipalities another $1.52 million.
Luzerne County receives $272,000 from a statewide “Marcellus Legacy Fund” distributed to all counties, but nothing from well production.
Kocher said Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were eligible to receive a minimum of $25,000, but the total amount each county gets is based on its population. In 35 counties, at least one well drilled in 2011 or before, entitling each of their municipalities to a piece of the fee.
“All municipalities located in a county with a well received some money based upon population and highway miles,” Kocher said.
The other 32 counties received lump sums, including Luzerne County. Although Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. drilled exploratory wells in Fairmount and Lake townships in 2010, those wells did not produce at least 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day, so they didn’t qualify for the fee, according to Kocher.
Other Northeastern Pennsylvania counties in this same category are Carbon, $55,000; Monroe, $144,000; Northumberland, $80,000; Pike, $48,000; Schuylkill, $125,000 and Wayne, $44,000.
Sullivan County receives $386,000, while 13 Sullivan municipalities will receive their own revenue.
Lackawanna County receives $190,754 in revenue with $8,828 of that tied to well production and nearly $182,000 from the legacy fund.
Forty Lackawanna municipalities receive impact fee revenue ranging from a handful of dollars to $9,777 for Benton Township and $1,022 for Scranton.
All told, $204 million in 2011 impact fee revenue will be spent across Pennsylvania. Local governments will receive the checks within the next 10 days, six weeks ahead of the Dec. 1 distribution date, PUC chairman Robert Powelson said.
Corbett said the revenue distribution meets his goal of putting impact fee revenue directly in the hands of local officials.
“It’s huge for Susquehanna County,” said Rep. Sandra Major, R-Montrose, referring to nearly $4 million available for that rural county.
“I’ve never seen money coming back locally on any kind of appropriation like this,” said Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Towanda. She said a number of municipalities in her district are getting the maximum $500,000 amount.
The impact fee revenue yield is just a portion of the revenue that would have been available if Pennsylvania had enacted a state severance tax, said Bill Patton, spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny County.
This revenue was paid by nearly 60 companies, including Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., for “spud” wells where drilling had actually started in 2011.
The impact fee law enacted last March provides for 60 percent of revenue going to counties and local governments covered under impact fee drilling ordinances and 40 percent distributed through the legacy fund for statewide programs. Fifteen percent of the legacy fund is distributed to all counties based on population for greenway, trail, open space and nature area projects.
Local governments can spend the revenue for a variety of stated purposes, including road repair and maintenance, water and sewer system work, emergency preparedness, judicial system costs and affordable housing.
Powelson said the law doesn’t give Harrisburg a watchdog role in ensuring local officials spend the impact fee revenue for the stated purposes, but added that local solicitors will know the law’s intent.
“I don’t foresee a problem,” said Powelson.
Susquehanna County Piece
A town-by-town breakdown of the impact fee earmarked for Susquehanna County:
Forest Lake: $451,443.44
Great Bend Boro: $15,244.47
Great Bend Twp.: $112,907.26
Hop Bottom: $14,653.87
Little Meadows: $15,277.21
New Milford Boro: $37,125.96
New Milford Twp.: $277,232.01
Oakland Boro: $13,649.66
Oakland Twp.: $31,218.97
Silver Lake: $138,406.77
Susquehanna Depot: $34,554.60
Thompson Boro: $6,124.55
Thompson Twp.: $42,801.86
Union Dale: $14,626.44 (Times-Shamrock writer Elizabeth Skrapits contributed to this story.