Proposed impact fee would benefit host communities, aid public protection
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently announced plans to implement numerous recommendations of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, including changes to enhance environmental standards, an impact fee and a plan to help move Pennsylvania toward energy independence.
“This natural resource will fuel our generating plants, heat our homes and power our state's economic engine for generations to come,” Corbett said. “This growing industry will also provide new career opportunities that will give our children a reason to stay here in Pennsylvania. We are going to do this safely and we're going to do it right, because energy equals jobs.”
The plan is designed to ensure that Pennsylvania's economy benefits from development in the Marcellus Shale, while also ensuring that the state’s environment is protected.
As a part of the proposal, Corbett announced a series of standards related to unconventional drilling, including:
• Increasing the well setback distance from private water wells from the current 200 ft to 500 ft, and to 1,000 ft from public water systems;
• Increasing the setback distance for wells near streams, rivers, ponds and other bodies of water from 100 ft to 300 ft;
• Expanding an unconventional gas operator's “presumed liability” for impairing water quality from 1,000 ft to 2,500 ft from a gas well, and extending the duration of presumed liability from 6 months after well completion to 12 months;
• Doubling penalties for civil violations from $25,000 to $50,000; and
• Doubling daily penalties from $1,000 a day to $2,000 a day.
This plan allows for an impact fee, which will be adopted for use by local communities experiencing and responding to the impacts of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling. “Estimates show that this impact fee will bring in about $120 million in the first year, climbing to nearly $200 million within six years,” Corbett said.
The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission issued 96 recommendations. About one-third requires legislative changes; more than 50 are policy-oriented and can be accomplished within Pennsylvania state agencies.