Impact fees down again but Washington County is top recipient

Staff and Wire Reports
Observer Reporter

Pennsylvania’s counties and municipal governments will see another drop in the annual revenue they get from Marcellus Shale gas wells. 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said Thursday that impact fee revenue from Marcellus Shale wells dropped by almost $15 million to about $173 million.

That’s the lowest annual payment in the six-year history of the impact fee, and the third year of decline.

Despite the decline, Washington County was again the top impact fee recipient, with Greene County also registering near the top of the list.

The utility commission said the fee revenue is declining because of a persistent slump in natural gas prices and the increasing age of many of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale wells.

Most of the money, about $93 million, goes to county and municipal governments, while smaller amounts are earmarked for environmental improvement programs, roadway repairs and water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.

Washington County was the largest recipient of 2016 impact fee revenue, at $5.38 million. Greene County also was among the top recipients, netting $3.7 million.

Three Greene County municipalities also were among the top gainers among local governments. Morris Township will receive $770,940; Center Township, $730,772; and Cumberland Township, $646,602.

The $173 million in distributions announced by PUC on Thursday brings the total generated from Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact tax to $1.2 billion in revenues since 2011. Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Spigelmyer issued the following statement on the latest impact fee distributions:

“Pennsylvania’s unique tax on natural gas – called the impact fee – continues to be a policy solution that’s working as designed, directly benefitting communities in all 67 counties throughout the commonwealth.

“Since 2011, Pennsylvania’s impact fee – which currently equates to a 9.16 percent effective natural gas tax – has generated more than $1.2 billion in revenue supporting community programs, local infrastructure projects, as well as statewide environmental and conservation initiatives.

“This unique natural gas impact tax empowers county and municipal leaders by keeping revenues local for community projects.

“We understand the budget challenges that Pennsylvania faces, but proposals to enact even higher energy taxes – along with even more costly and unnecessary regulations – hurt the commonwealth’s competitiveness and our state’s ability to attract job-creating investment.”