Today, the Marcellus Shale Commission is voting on long-awaited recommendations on natural gas development. The full report will be available next Friday, but the Commission has decided to recommend an “impact fee,” and not a severance tax.
While it’s clear natural gas companies are already paying more than their fair share, it’s good to see the Commission is at least attempting to suggest any fee be tied to actual impacts [subscription required], such as:
- Local emergency response and training,
- Improving public safety,
- Improving public water,
- Recouping costs associated with inspection and maintenance of roads and bridges,
- Increased demand on social services,
- Increased judicial system costs,
- Environmental remediation associated with well site development,
- State emergency response training, public health evaluation, data collection and claims investigation,
- Community-based projects to protect and restore land, water resources, wildlife and outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Commission also recommended forced pooling, a form of eminent domain. Under forced pooling, gas companies may harvest natural gas from beneath a property without the landowner’s permission if a majority of surrounding landowners have signed a lease. While forced pooling can reduce the number of wells and well pads, respect for property rights should always outweigh convenience.
Instead of a baseline for future natural gas legislation, legislative aides have expressed disinterest [subscription required] with the Commission’s report. Drew Compton, a spokesman for President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, told Capitolwire:
This is, ultimately, a legislative and administrative conversation, as it has been for years. I don’t know what [the commission’s] long term plans are, but I can’t imagine they will have an impact long-term in this conversation.
As the debate moves into the fall, it appears those advocating for an impact fee have gained some steam. The question is, will Gov. Corbett agree to a fee?