No Impact Fee In 2011 – Measure Likely Headed to Conference Committee In January

  • Scott Detrow

It’s very likely 2011 will now mirror 2009 and 2010, in that the year will come and go without a comprehensive Marcellus Shale bill being signed into law.
Legislation enacting a natural gas drilling impact fee and updating safety, environmental and zoning regulations has been a top priority for Governor Corbett and Senate Republican leaders this year. But the chamber has cast its final vote of 2011, and the issue is still far from settled.
Yesterday, the Senate passed an amended version of the House impact fee. The move was aimed at setting up a joint conference committee, which will be formed if the lower chamber votes “no” on the legislation. A committee would streamline the final voting process, if and when House and Senate leaders agree on a compromise between their two fee bills.
More from the Post-Gazette:

…Wednesday’s vote was aimed at setting up a joint House-Senate panel to adopt a compromise bill, which would receive a “yes or no” vote — without the option for amendments — in each chamber.
…The bill’s future is unclear. Mr. Miskin said House Republicans have not yet decided whether to send the measure to negotiations. “Not everyone is certain that a conference committee is the way to go,” he said.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who put first forward the “impact fee” idea in the spring, said he hoped his House colleagues do move toward a conference committee.
“We’re going to try to reconcile as many of the differences with the House and with the governor as we can in the coming days, as quick as we can,” Scarnati said. “It would be our intent to work toward hopefully an agreed-to product.”
He added: “I think with a good-faith effort by all we can find some resolution and have it done when we’re back in January. And if we ultimately find a resolution to it sooner than that, we can talk about coming back. … We haven’t lost our goal. We didn’t reach the date.”

Drew Crompton, Scarnati’s chief-of-staff, said the Senate held its vote after House Republican leaders gave “firm commitments” their chamber would vote no, and send the measure to a conference committee.
The delay is good news for one camp: the local officials who are worried an impact fee would curtail their ability to zone and regulate drilling operations.

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