Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Gas drilling impact fees fall to $188 million

A drill rig in Susquehanna County.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

A drill rig in Susquehanna County. The county will receive $5.2 million in impact fees this year.

As expected Pennsylvania’s gas drilling impact fees fell to the lowest amount ever last year, according to figures released by the state Public Utility Commission Wednesday.

The fees brought in $187.7 million in 2015– down from $223.5 million collected the year before. Over the pas five years, the fees have brought in more than a billion dollars. Much of the money stays at the local level and is distributed to the the counties and municipalities with the most shale wells.

This year Washington County will receive the most money, $5.6 million, followed by Susquehanna and Bradford counties, which will get $5.2 million and $4.9 million respectively. Checks are expected to go out before July 1.

Dave Spigelmyer who heads the industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, criticized ongoing efforts by state lawmakers to impose a production tax on shale gas.

“It cannot be lost on anyone that Pennsylvania’s model is working as designed and these positive community and environment benefits are absolutely jeopardized by proposals for even higher energy taxes,” Spigelmyer said in an emailed statement.

In February the state’s Independent Fiscal Office projected the 2015 impact fee revenue would drop sharply in the face of depressed natural gas prices and an overall slowdown in drilling. The final amount was about $2.2 million more than the IFO predicted.

Although the PUC collects and distributes the money, it has no authority to audit how it is spent. Following complaints from the southwestern and northeastern parts of the state, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale (D) is planning to launch an audit of how the drilling fees are being spent in 2017.

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