Each shale gas well in Pennsylvania causes between $5,400 and $10,000 in damage to state roads, according to a recent report by researchers at the Rand Corp.
The damage is largely unseen and may shorten the life span of the highway system.
The report comes as the state Legislature is looking for ways to offset the impact that gas drilling produces in Pennsylvania, which has become the third-biggest gas-producing state thanks to drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
While the costs are significant, “they look like they’re manageable with the right policies,” said Constantine Samaras, who led research as a senior engineer at Rand and now teaches engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
Researches assumed there were between 625 and 1,148 one-way truck trips per well, using data from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
The report only focused on the cost to state-maintained roads and excluded smaller local roads, where gas drillers typically have agreements requiring them to pay for visible damage. According to the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, companies have spent more than $500 million to repair roads since Pennsylvania’s gas boom began.
The state’s impact fee on natural gas drillers is meant to help pay for costs– like road repair– associated with natural gas development. Over the past two years the fee has brought in about $200 million per year.
About $25 million stays at the state level for agencies impacted by drilling. The remaining money is given to local governments, with 60 percent going directly to areas impacted by drilling, and 40 percent to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which gets used in communities across the state.
Drillers are required to make their 2013 impact fee payments to the state Public Utility Commission by April 1st.