The state will pay out slightly less in Marcellus Shale impact funds to counties and municipalities this year, tied to a mandated drop in per-well drilling fees.
The state Public Utility Commission announced natural gas drillers would pay $202.5 million in fees for 2012, down less than a percentage point from the $204.2 million they paid the previous year. About half of the money -- $102.7 million -- will go to counties and localities impacted by drilling, $71.8 million will go to long-term projects and $28 million to state agencies working on drilling matters.
Washington County will receive the second-most funding of any county statewide, at $4.7 million. Two of its municipalities, Chartiers ($578,165) and Amwell (576,941), are among the five highest-grossing localities statewide. Another, Mount Pleasant, fell out of the top-tier for 2012 but will still get $471,000 and is the seventh highest-grossing municipality in the state over the past two years.
Mount Pleasant manager Mary Ann Stevenson said the township is still appropriating last year's impact fees, with the bulk of it going into the design and engineering of sewage infrastructure for property owners, instead of septic tanks. "That's the big ticket. The rest is sitting in capital reserve," she said.
The PUC is supposed to send government bodies their checks by the end of the month.
Bradford County in the state's northeast will collect the most at $7.3 million. Lycoming and Tioga counties follow Washington with $4.4 million each.
Lawrence in Clearfield County will clear the most local impact money with $797,000 followed by Cumberland in Greene County at $787,000 and the city of Williamsport in Lycoming at $593,000.
Allegheny County will get $1.1 million, Butler $1.2 million, Fayette $1.3 million, Greene $2.9 million and Westmoreland $1.6 million. Even Philadelphia County, which has no wells, will get $1.3 million for long-term projects.
"To see how this new revenue stream, now totaling more than $406 million is being distributed to every corner of the commonwealth is a vivid illustration and reminder of how safe, tightly regulated natural gas development is benefiting local communities, statewide programs and funding of government agencies," said Kathryn Klaber, CEO of the gas industry's Marcellus Shale Coalition.
"Our member companies are working ... to ensure we get this historic opportunity right for all 12 million-plus Pennsylvanians."
Under legislation Gov. Tom Corbett signed in February 2012, the per-well drilling fees companies pay is tied to the price of natural gas. Since prices dropped in 2012, those drilling new horizontal wells paid $45,000 per well last year compared to $50,000 the year before. Second-year wells paid $35,000.
The average price of gas dropped from $4.10 per thousand cubic feet in 2011 to $2.78 in 2012.
The trends will likely continue into the impact fees distributed next year. While there were 78 active drilling rigs statewide in July 2012, there were 54 statewide as of this month.
Chesapeake Appalachia made the most gas producer payments to the state at $27.4 million followed by Range Resources at nearly $24 million and Talisman Energy at $20 million.
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581. First Published June 13, 2013 3:00 PM