Consumer Energy Alliance Mid-Atlantic Director Mike Butler penned an op-ed for ShaleReporter.com regarding the benefits of shale impact fees from shale production companies to county and municipal governments in Pennsylvania.
Imagine the excitement of officials in a pair of northern Pennsylvania counties earlier this year when they learned their communities and its hardworking taxpayers would get more than $22 million in impact fees collected from natural gas production companies.
Dale Phillips, supervisor chairperson in Foster Township, in McKean County, has called impact fee revenue “a shot in the arm,” adding “it helps us not to raise taxes when we can get money from other sources. Any additional revenue generated is always welcome to take the burden off the taxpayers.”
Numerous other state, county, and community representatives have echoed similar sentiments when asked about the economic advantages impact fees have delivered to Pennsylvanians. As per law, impacts fees are placed on wells drilling in the formation, with the levy changing annually based on natural gas prices and the Consumer Price Index. The formation’s vast reserves, in conjunction with new drilling technology, have helped Pennsylvania earn the cultivated “fastest-growing natural gas-producing state” honor by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Altogether, local impact fees have brought in about $630 million over the last three years – $204 million in 2011, $202 million in 2012, and $225 million in 2013. This is, of course, on top of the $1.2 billion in royalty payments that the natural gas industry issued to Commonwealth landowners in 2012 alone.
Impact fees have helped county and municipal governments, including those where shale development does not occur, repair and maintain roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and other public infrastructure; fund projects that increase the availability of affordable housing to low-income residents; and deliver various social services and equipment upgrades for first responders.
Right here in Beaver County, for instance, impact fees – which tallied nearly $371,000 in 2013 – have jumpstarted talks of boosting area education opportunities and redeveloping brownfield sites, Rep. Jim Christiana has previously said. “I think those funds would hopefully go toward infrastructure projects that would allow for brownfield sites to be re-industrialized, to put more job creators and employers in Beaver County,” he said.
Officials in communities across Pennsylvania have expressed similar sentiments – like LeRoy Township, in Bradford County, which will be getting $150,960 in impact fee revenue for 2013. “With receiving the impact fee, we have been able to completely eliminate the debt for LeRoy Township, thereby allowing us to maintain the tax rate for the residents and to allow us to create a reserve fund for future years,” Township Supervisor Jason Krise said.
Armstrong County reportedly put their share of impact fee revenue toward its 911 department’s $1.7 million operating budget. “Since we’re able to use that money for public safety, we were able to put that money into 911, which kept us from having a shortfall in the overall budget,” said Carly Cowan, Armstrong County’s Marcellus shale coordinator.
Perhaps Lenox Township Supervisor Fred Benson, whose Susquehanna County town was recently allocated $400,000 in impact fee revenue, said it best: “I hope it stays right here. Don’t take it away. As long as the legislatures and the senate keep it here, we’ll be all right.”
Instead of abandoning these positive community impacts and economic growth, policymakers and consumers should focus on working together to find a commonsense approach that leverages the responsible use of our natural resources to encourage investment, build opportunity, and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.