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Some Pa. towns will get more Marcellus cash

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Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

A number of Western Pennsylvania municipalities will get substantially more in impact fees from Marcellus shale gas drilling than they were initially told by the state while others will get less, the Public Utility Commission said.

The state updated its payment schedule after determining that it miscalculated how to divvy up the more than $204 million it collected from drillers to help municipalities pay for things such as wear and tear on roads and sewer systems.

“A few entities reached out to the PUC to verify their information and double-check their distribution,” said Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the agency. “As a result, we conducted a wholesale review of the distribution amounts and made the necessary corrections.”

The state increased the amount it will pay out across the state by $104,887, according to a report released Wednesday. Officials initially thought its calculations could be off by as much as $1 million.

While some communities will get payments that are nearly 500 percent more, the change may not be significant since the actual dollar amount is low.

Pleasant Hills will see one of the highest jumps — 320 percent. It will get $791.44 instead of $188.09.

The largest percentage increase was in Benton, Columbia County, which will get $365.34 instead of $61.44 — an increase of 494 percent.

Penn Hills, which initially was told it would get $965, was increased by nearly 321 percent to $4,061. Deputy Mayor Sara Jayne Kuhn said while any increase in payments is welcome, municipal officials decided to take a “proactive” approach to addressing the possible impact of shale drilling operations.

“We've passed very stringent requirements for drilling that requires drillers to be properly bonded so that the money is available to cover problems that arise,” she said. “We tried to be very thorough, so I believe we've covered every aspect of the issue.”

In actual payments, the city of Williamsport in Lycoming County got the largest increase — $300,145, for a total of $559,743. The largest decrease was in adjacent Loyalsock, which was initially promised $300,500. It will now get $56,500 less, a drop of 18 percent.

Other local municipalities that will receive double the amount initially reported include New Kensington, which went from $15,247 to $30,971, and Lower Burrell, which goes from $14,800 to $30,051, both more than 103 percent higher.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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