Marcellus Shale Update

Governor Tom Corbett has announced that the Marcellus Shale Impact Fees imposed pursuant to Act 13 have risen to more than $400 million during the past two years.  Under Act 13 the majority of the money goes to counties and local governments, with the biggest beneficiaries understandably being those counties with the largest number of unconventional wells.  In 2012, Bradford County received $8.4 million and its constituent municipalities $13.4 million for a total of $21.8 million.  Tioga County and its municipalities received a total of $12.1 million, followed by Washington County, Lycoming County and Susquehanna County and their municipalities.

Act 13 provides that every county within the Commonwealth shall receive some portion of the impact fees.  In Central Pennsylvania, local counties received impact fees as follows:  Dauphin – $227,456; Cumberland – $199,718; Lebanon – $113,319; Perry – $39,000; Lancaster – $440,697; and York – $369,030.

The case of Robinson Township, et al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in which a number of municipalities and residents challenged the constitutionality of Act 13 and its preemption of local regulation, including environmental laws and zoning code provisions, remains pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  A decision is expected this summer.  Meanwhile, the Order entered by the Commonwealth Court enjoining the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) from issuing Advisory Opinions on the validity of municipal ordinances regulating gas drilling activities remains in effect.

Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling activities have limited impact in Central Pennsylvania.  However, regional planners have begun preparation for the inclusion of provisions for potential Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling in their comprehensive plans.  The Dauphin County Commissioners recently approved funding for the replacement of its existing comprehensive plan, so as to include provisions for potential Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling.  In addition, communities in Central Pennsylvania are likely to be the sites for Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas transmission facilities.

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