HARRISBURG – Local lawmakers voted in favor of legislation that passed through the General Assembly this week which they said provides framework for creating jobs, protecting the environment, enhancing natural resources and securing energy independence in Pennsylvania.
Voting in favor of it were State Representatives Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon), Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill), and Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill-Berks).
House Bill 1950 increases setbacks from buildings, streams and waterways, while also limiting drilling in floodplains, protecting water supplies, increasing bonding requirements and enhancing the Department of Environmental Protection's enforcement power.
"Measures included under House Bill 1950 provide Pennsylvania with the opportunity to attain energy independence.This is the time for us to harness these natural gas technologies and make this state a national model for energy innovation," said Heffley.
This legislation will allow counties the option to implement impact fees which have the potential to raise $180 million in the first year, while expanding regulations for the industry, including a requirement for disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The bill also direct a portion of money collected to a variety of statewide infrastructure and environmental initiatives including hazardous site cleanups.
"This week a concensus was reached, and lathough it is obvious that not everyone is going to believe that the bill is perfect, we are moving forward," said Tobash. "We have passed a fee structure that will allow for the collection of additional revenue from the industry that will go primarily to areas where the industry is most active."
The legislation states that a "local impact fee" will vary depending on the price of natural gas and, beginning in 2013, on the rate of inflation. The bill will enable counties where drilling occurs to decide whether to impose a fee.However, if a county opts not to impose a fee, half of its municipalities will have the option to force it to do so.
Under House Bill 1950, 60 percent of the revenue raised from the fee will go to local governments impacted by drilling. Of that share, 37 percent will go to host municipalities, 36 percent to host counties and 27 percent to other municipalities in host counties. The money will be used to pay for a number of local services crucial to municipalities ranging from road, bridge and infrastructure projects to emergency preparedness.
The remaining 40 percent of the revenue will be allocated for statewide environmental projects, including acid mine drainage remediation, water projects, flood control, statewide highway and bridge improvements, projects for open space, and hazardous sites cleanup.
The bill is supported by both local government and environmental advocacy organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Growing Greener Coalition, the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"After nearly a year of putting together this proposal with my colleagues, I'm confident the final product will serve the greater interests of all residents in the Commonwealth," said Heffley.
Knowles remarked, "Throughout the years of debate on Marcellus Shale, my focus has been to protect taxpayers, our families, and our communities as we move forward and create jobs across Pennsylvania. Generations ago we failed to plan for the impacts similar industries have had on our communities. This legislation ensures we don't repeat the mistakes of the past, protects our taxpayers, and gives local communities resources they never had.
Prior to passing through the House 101-90 Wednesday, the state Senate voted 31-19 in favor of the bill on Tuesday. The legislation now heads to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk to be signed into law.
For more information on this bill, visit Heffley's website at RepHeffley.com.