Valley municipalities collect Act 13 money
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Municipalities across Pennsylvania will benefit from $204 million collected in impact fees from Marcellus shale natural gas drilling.
In the Ligonier Valley, $213,898.71 will be divided among nine municipalities. Fairfield Township will receive the highest amount, $97,257.35.
The money is collected from drilling fees levied during the first 15 years of a well's life. The amount due for each well ranges between $5,000 and $60,000 and depends on when drilling began and the average price of natural gas.
About 22 percent of the $204 million collected is going to municipalities with wells, with another 16 percent allocated for municipalities statewide. The remainder will be divided among state programs and counties with wells.
Locally, municipal officials can spend the money on water, wastewater and road maintenance and repair, delivery of social services, emergency preparedness, environmental programs, tax reductions, an increase in safe and affordable housing, employee training or planning initiatives.
Fairfield Township will use $12,985 to cover the cost of seven fire hydrants installed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County along the water line from Johnstown-to-Ligonier. The authority and township split the cost and the township will pay the authority $12,985 over the next three years.
The rest of the Marcellus money will go into a savings account for future projects, said Supervisor Vaughn Tantlinger.
Ligonier Borough officials will save $4,600 slated to come in, according to secretary/treasurer Paul Fry.
“We'll save it for unexpected expenses in (the allowable) categories,” Fry said. “You never know when a catch water basin will break or storm water drain needs repaired. It will offset some of the shortfalls of the budget for some of those unforeseen expenditures.”
Ligonier Township Supervisor Keith Whipkey said he does not view the $58,000 the township will receive as “extra money.”
“We're looking at a tax increase for next year,” Whipkey said. “So we're going to have to apply this money to things that we would normally pay out of the general fund. Hopefully this and other things we're trying to do will help delay a tax increase for another year.”
In Cook Township, Supervisor Mark McKlveen said the money won't go far. The township is scheduled to receive a little more than $21,000.
“We're going to do some repairing of old paved roads and upgrading of some gravel roads,” McKlveen said. “Paving is awful expensive, and the money will go really quick. We're going to stretch these dollars as far as we can, but we won't be able to do all the roads.”
St. Clair Township Supervisor Jim Caldwell said nearly $25,000 coming in there will go toward road repairs, among other projects.
“We have so many things to do, I can't pinpoint one particular thing we might spend the money on,” Caldwell said. “We have a roof to put on the township building, road repairs. Some of the money could even go toward (hiring) a police officer.”
Bolivar Borough Council President Clark Baird said officials will use $1,600 toward an expansive drain repair project. Officials are seeking a grant for that project.
Officials in New Florence and Laurel Mountain said the boroughs had not received notification they would get any funds.
According to the Public Utilities Commission website, New Florence will receive nearly $2,800 and Laurel Mountain, $706. The PUC will disburse the money.
Seward is slated to get $1,700. Borough officials did not return several messages seeking comment.
Most officials said the Act 13 allocations more than covered any financial effects drilling had on their communities.
“The majority of trucks that go through town for Marcellus shale drilling are using state roads, which the state maintains,” Fry said. “It might be inconvenient, but we don't have to cover the cost of those repairs.”
Caldwell said St. Clair Township has no issues with drilling.
Ligonier Township has three horizontal natural gas wells in operation on one well site.
Fairfield has 10 wells on eight sites. St. Clair has two wells at one site and Cook Township has four wells at one location.
Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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