Nine Republican state Senators have signed a letter expressing major concerns about local zoning restrictions within the natural gas drilling impact fees passed by both the House and Senate.
(Read the letter after the jump.)
The legislators say they’re on board with a plan to allow the Attorney General’s office to challenge “unreasonable” local drilling restrictions, but write, “we feel the language contained in the current version of the bill goes far beyond that concept and actually works more like a model ordinance by specifically spelling out permitted uses.”
StateImpact Pennsylvania explained at length how the legislation would curb local zoning controls in this November post.
Republicans hold a comfortable ten-seat majority in the Senate,but these nine Republicans could kill the impact fee’s chances of becoming law, if they remain opposed to the letter.
A close vote on an amendment to the first version of the Senate’s version of the impact fee illustrates how that could happen.
The language, authored by Allegheny County Democrat Jim Ferlo, would have stripped the bill of all local zoning restrictions. It failed on a relatively close 22-27 vote, after the Republican caucus spent a considerable amount of energy whipping and counting its vote totals. Six of the nine Republicans who signed the letter voted “no” on that amendment.
What’s happening with the impact fee right now? House and Senate Republican leaders are working with the Corbett Administration to reach a final product bridging the gap between the two chambers’ differences. (Among them: how high of a per-well fee to set; whether a fee would be administered by counties or the commonwealth; how revenue would be distributed.)
Once an agreement is in place, the new language would be approved by a joint House-Senate conference committee. That would send the legislation back to both chambers for a final up or down vote, with no room for any new amendments to be offered.
Here’s the letter, which is signed by Senators Richard Alloway, Ed Erickson, Robert Tomlinson, John Rafferty, Stewart Greenleaf, Pat Vance, Mike Folmer, Bob Mensch, and Charles McIlhinney