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$57,000 in drilling fees earmarked for municipalities in Penn-Trafford district

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Municipalities in the Penn-Trafford School District will get more than $57,000 next month through a state program that dispenses payments according to the effect that drilling operations have within and near their borders.

At $46,411, Penn Township will be the biggest recipient in the district, followed by Manor, $6,691; Trafford, $3,091; and Penn Borough, $1,193.49.

Each community in the district will get about 10 percent less than it received from the state Public Utility Commission, or PUC, last year, during the first round of drilling-impact fees.

State legislators established the fees last year in Act 13, which established changes to oil- and gas-drilling regulations.

A portion of the law unrelated to the fees is under review by the state Supreme Court.

Statewide, the fees collected from the drilling industry for 2012 totaled about $202.4 million, a decrease of about $1.8 million from the previous year.

Of that total, local governments in Pennsylvania will get about $102.7 million, or about $2.6 million less than in the first year of payments.

PUC press secretary Jennifer Kocher said several factors — including the number of wells that are in operation — go into the formula that determines how much each municipality receives.

Part of the reason for the decline in impact fees is the drop in the cost of natural gas, she said.

“It's gone down slightly overall, so it's just rippled through,” Kocher said of the decline in impact fees for Penn-Trafford communities.

The money may be used on a variety of capital projects, including maintenance of wastewater systems or roads, emergency preparedness or environmental programs.

Penn Township already has capitalized on its 2012 payment from the PUC. Just last week, the township reopened a portion of Saunders Station Road in Level Green after using the impact fees to pay for the construction and installation of a prefabricated temporary bridge for $39,710.

The township's engineer has estimated it would cost at least six times that price to install a new, permanent structure over a creek there, but the temporary bridge has a warranty for eight years, and, officials said, it might be in use for even longer.

The impact fees gave Penn Township another pot of money to use for the project because a replacement for the former deteriorating bridge, which was closed in December, wasn't included in the 2013 budget.

Commissioner Larry Harrison, who lives in Level Green, said he has heard a lot of positive comments about the new bridge.

“Everyone is very pleased with it,” he said.

Officials said they aren't sure how they will spend the next batch of money. Manager Bruce Light said the township doesn't have other projects similar to Saunders Station that could be completed within that same price range.

“I'm sure we'll come up with something,” he said.

Manor set up a separate reserve fund for its 2012 payment of $7,423 but hasn't spent anything from it yet.

Manager Joe Lapia said council has prioritized using the money for maintenance of roads or sewer systems or emergency preparedness.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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