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Westmoreland municipalities absorb shale impact fee revenues

| Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Marcellus shale impact fee disbursements for 2013 are up across the board for local municipalities compared with figures from 2012, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission reported.

As of April 4, the state had collected from natural gas producers about $223.3 million of about $223.5 million due for 2013. Producers paid a total of about $202.5 million in impact fees for 2012.

Impact fee revenues are awarded to counties and municipalities based on the number of eligible natural gas wells inside and within five miles of their borders, as well as the municipality's population and highway miles.

Act 13 revenue may be used for public infrastructure improvements, emergency preparedness, public safety, environmental programs including parks and trails, preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface waters, tax reductions including homestead exclusions, affordable housing programs, records management, information technology, the delivery of social services, judicial services, deposits to capital reserve funds to be used for Act 13 purposes, career and technical centers for training workers in the oil and gas industry, and local or regional planning initiatives.

Payments are due to state agencies and county and municipal governments by July 1, according to the commission's website.

Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Range Resources Appalachia LLC paid the most in impact fees for 2013: about $26.7 million and almost $28 million, respectively.

Chesapeake was operating 743 horizontal wells and three vertical wells during the 2012 reporting year, according to PUC records. Range Resources operated 637 horizontal and nine vertical wells that year.

A breakdown for 2013 is not yet available from the commission.

Westmoreland County will be awarded $1.35 million in impact fees and $348,228 in Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund disbursements.

Derry Township will receive $428,321 in impact fees, the most of any municipality in Westmoreland County. The township received $370,464.04 for 2012.

“We're looking at what we need to do as far as the roads, the typical maintenance work and all those other things,” Derry Township Supervisor Dave Slifka said of plans for the funds. “We're just going to probably look at that situation and put more money back into it as much as we can with the time permitted with the summer. Then we're going to start looking at some equipment, too, because they're getting older.”

For Derry Township, the Act 13 disbursements help pay for necessary projects that would otherwise fall on taxpayers for funding.

“It increases the revenue end of it, too, so it doesn't restrict us,” Slifka said. “It keeps us from raising taxes. I don't know how some of these municipalities do it.”

Unity Township will receive $63,772 for 2013 after collecting $60,127 for 2012.

Supervisor Mike O'Barto said the township plans to use its Act 13 disbursement to purchase road salt and paving materials.

Ligonier Township's disbursement for 2013 is $48,167, up from $46,933.

Boroughs, which generally don't have gas wells within their borders, bring in considerably less Act 13 money.

“The Act 13 (money) really doesn't even come into consideration on anything until we start looking at what our last options are and where we can pull some money from,” Derry Borough Council President Joe Morton said. “That's one of those things where we like to keep it in there for a while and let it build up.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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