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Reaction Pours In On Corbett's Impact Fee Plan

We’re getting all sorts of reaction to Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale proposal, which includes a $40,000-$10,000-per well impact fee directing revenue to local governments and a handful of state agencies.
First, the lawmakers:
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati is “pleased” to see Corbett’s impact fee, but notes “obstacles” in the way of a final law. From his press release:

“As we move toward ensuring that communities across the Commonwealth are protected from the impacts of drilling, there will be discussion on the percentage that goes to local jurisdictions and what environmental programs will be funded and at what level,” Scarnati added.  “The most important thing is that we get some consistency, some confidence, and some reliability that the Commonwealth is moving in a direction that will foster growth in the industry while protecting our water, our neighborhoods, and our roads.”

Not surprisingly, Democrats are criticizing the proposal. House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton emails it “falls woefully short.”

The governor… offered a confusing and inconsistent fee schedule that would vary among counties and fails to account for the true statewide environmental impacts of industrial gas drilling activity at thousands of sites.  The Corbett concept would produce less than $50 million per year for state impacts, with none of that money going to the Growing Greener fund.  To put that in perspective, the state’s 10 casinos returned more than $5 billion to residents through tax and licensing revenues generated by slot machines and table games in just five years, while creating more than 15,000 jobs.

In a separate statement, House Democratic Policy Chair Mike Sturla says the Corbett plan is “too little, too late.”
On to the interest groups:
First, the industry’s Marcellus Shale Coalition, whose statement, attributed to president Kathryn Klaber, stays vague on the details of Corbett’s proposal.

The governor’s plan – and its foundation that ‘energy equals jobs’ – reminds us that the most significant and long-term benefits of clean-burning natural gas will be achieved only through competitive policies that allow the industry to flourish in the Commonwealth and relentlessly protect our shared environment. We look forward to reviewing the details of this proposal and remaining engaged with policymakers and other key stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.”

The environmental groups don’t like it. PennFuture’s release is pretty blunt:

“This plan is neither fair nor comprehensive, and is full of giveaways to the drillers,” said Jan Jarrett, PennFuture’s president and CEO. “It appears that the governor’s thinking in devising his plan was, ‘What’s the least I can ask of the drilling industry?’
“The proposed impact fee is too small, full of loopholes, unwieldy to administer, and leaves too much money on the table,”

Another group, PennEnvironment, says Corbett’s increased environmental protections don’t go “nearly far enough.”

We had major concerns with portions of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission final report, and this proposal appears to draw heavily from the report’s recommendations.
“Regarding the impact fee proposal, Gov. Corbett appears to be out of step with own party, whose House and Senate members have supported proposals that include funding for critical Growing Greener-style environmental programs.
“Meanwhile, the proposal allocates impact fee money to environmental cleanup, which, while necessary, is often far more expensive than pollution prevention. Wouldn’t a true fiscal conservative set stringent safety and environmental standards on the front end to avoid expensive cleanup that will likely be paid by taxpayers on the back-end?”

Finally, the right-leaning Commonwealth Foundation praises Corbett’s suggestion to keep the fee on the county level.

“Those who were looking to redistribute other people’s money to their pet projects will be sorely disappointed with the framework established by the governor today,” said Matthew J. Brouillette, CF president and CEO.  “By making it optional for counties to impose any additional fees on natural gas job creators, Gov. Corbett keeps his pledge not to raise taxes while ensuring the natural gas industry continues to pay for its impacts on local government.”

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