Last week, the Pennsylvania state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and the Senate Local Government Committee held a joint public hearing to discuss Act 13 Impact Fee dollars from oil and gas development on communities throughout the state. Local officials from around the Commonwealth convened in Harrisburg and spoke, first hand, about the benefits Act 13 has brought to their communities.
Below are some of the highlights from the video above.
Alan M. Hall – Susquehanna County Commissioner
“Municipalities have used funds to improve bridges, sewer systems, roads, parks and equipment, to name a few… Susquehanna County is one of those few counties in the state where we have zero debt and our pensions fund is 100 percent funded. The county in also going through the growth of infrastructure in the communities, the distribution system of natural gas has begun in our communities giving homeowners and business owner’s energy savings. The county courthouse and office building is being converted to natural gas to provide heat. The court house was originally heated with 110 year old coal boiler and an oil fired boiler the size of a medium size package truck… these changes are providing an energy efficient, clean and healthy environment to the employees and tax payers. This is all possible through Act 13 funding.” (11:03)
Charles J. Morris – Greene County Board of Commissioners
“$3.1 million in 2012; $2.9 million in 2013; and $3.6 million in 2014. In view of our total budget of approximately $29 million, the effect of the Impact Fee is plainly evident. We have used these funds in any number of ways, a few of which are as follows:
Courthouse – Much needed repairs to the ceilings roof and dome were made.
Parks – We have repaired and upgraded playgrounds and a pool for the eastern side of the county.
Time does not permit me to detail all of the ways the Impact Fee has been spent. Indeed, not all of it has been used but rather has been set aside for future use as we (Commissioners) are fearful of becoming dependent upon it. Needless to say, the Impact Fee has been a blessing to Greene County.” (16:30)
Dennis P. Stuckey – Lancaster board of commissioners:
“We are not a shale gas county, as you know. But we are the beneficiaries of the funds that have been distributed according to the formula, which we think is a very successful way to distribute funds to local communities… Lancaster County has about 1/7th of the total Ag production in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a little over a billion dollars. So agriculture is very important to use and that’s where we felt the money should best go… This year we’ve taken about $940,000 of the impact fee open space fund that we have and committed that to agriculture preserve.” (23:30)
Kurt Hausammann – Lycoming County Planning & Community Development Department:
“If you’ve been in Williamsport, Pennsylvania recently and you had been there before 2007, it’s now a completely different downtown. New hotels, new restaurants, no more vacant store fronts, there is now retail on first floor, we now have residential living and high end apartments on the second and third floor of buildings, it’s really just a changed city. And that is due in part to the oil and gas industry.” (29:39)
Charles O. Stowe – Butler County township officials:
“The 33 townships in Butler County have used the Act 13 impact funds in a number of ways. Some have chipped, paved, resurfaced, and widened their roads. Others have replaced culverts, replaced bridges, and implemented storm water improvements on their roads. Other townships have updated equipment such as purchasing graders, trucks, a roller, high lift, a snow plow, and a tractor with a boom mower. Some are planning road improvements and bridge replacement projects. Others are planning to purchase new equipment with their Act 13 monies. One township used their Act 13 money to invest in equipment for their police department. Other township have invested in parks by expanding existing ones and creating new ones. Some have donated to their volunteer fire companies, and have implemented much needed storm water improvement projects.” (58:51)
Howard W. Fry – Lycoming County Association of Township Officials:
“If you can picture this, I live 20 miles north of Williamsport, in a little community of about 955 people. Guess what? My budget is about 150,000 a year to run the township, plowing the snow, buying the fuel and maintaining the buildings. It doesn’t go very far. And the other side of this, between 15 and 25 dollars per person comes to my township, that’s all they pay for tax. I can’t even buy fuel for my equipment with that, for the year… We’ve had 60 wells in our township, and believe me, it did help tremendously. I invested in a new playground, we are the only playground in 25 miles for people to come too. I have people there every day in the summer, I don’t know where they came from, but it was a community project… I also invested in a cinder shed, now you people are probably saying, ‘big deal a cinder shed.’ Well when it’s zero degrees outside and it’s two foot of frozen cinders on top and you go out there with your machine and try to dig it loose with all the lumps in the truck and you’re out there and snows blowing down your neck and you’re trying to get the lumps out of your truck at two o’clock in the morning, well, it’s not fun. We put a shed up and that problem went away. My point here today is that Act 13 money allowed me to invest in my township.” (1:01:00)
Anthony Ventello – Executive Director of the Progress Authority:
“We are aware of the tremendous economic impact of natural gas exploration, through direct shale gas investment, purchasing of local services, goods, and substantial payment of taxes to our federal, state and local governments. We have experienced tax base expansion with new commercial and residential buildings. Our counties have 2 new hospitals improving health care delivery and experiencing their 24/7 economic impacts. Taxable income has risen 19%, farming remains the strongest in the core Marcellus Counties, along with continued investment in our diversified local manufacturing sector. However, existing tax levies are used to fund traditional state, educational and governmental services. Act 13 has for the first time in Pennsylvania allowed for the bolstering of emergency services and public safety, which is traditionally volunteer based. Infrastructure improvements along with critical planning and investment for housing, industrial park development, and most recently, an infrastructure bank and investment loan and grant programs which target the greatest needs to maximize impact of critical issues have been developed. Act 13 has provided our counties, local municipalities and communities with funds to augment specific programs and efforts not reached with existing taxes and permitting fees traditionally levied by governments.” (1:34:00)
These are just a few of the many success stories made possible by the impact fee distribution provided by the natural gas and oil industry operating here in Pennsylvania. To date, local communities throughout the Commonwealth have received $650 million. That’s in addition to the over $2 billion in corporate and personal income tax revenue paid by the oil and gas companies in the past seven years.
Since the first successful Marcellus Shale well was developed in Washington County a decade ago, counties throughout the Commonwealth have benefitted from impact fee payments, low unemployment rates and cleaner air. Those working and benefitting from the industry are hopeful for this mutually beneficial relationship to continue for years to come.