How to shape the development of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania is now up to Gov. Tom Corbett, regulatory agencies and lawmakers, following the release of the full report of the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.
The 30-member panel recommended establishing a local impact fee and disbursing it to communities to offset the environmental, infrastructure and personnel costs of using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract gas from the shale.
Some municipalities have expressed concern that related strains could affect their bond ratings. “The imposition of any fee should be accompanied by appropriate statutory changes to ensure fair and consistent municipal regulation which does not unreasonably impede the development of natural gas,” said the report, released July 22.
According to the commission, examples of local impact include Wyalusing Township in Bradford County, which has had to increase roadwork wages by 20% to stay competitive with industry workers, and spent more than $8,000 on a conditional-use hearing.
Other examples cited were Murrysville in Westmorland County, which has had to spend $50,000 to bond and post their roads, and counties in the Endless Mountain region, who say they have lost a combined $142,000 in 18 months because state law exempts motel guests from a lodging tax if they have been guests for more than 30 days.
Pennsylvania’s general obligation bonds are rated Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service, AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and AA by Standard & Poor’s.