Pa. gov: Drilling fee should aid locals, cleanups

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Corbett revealed more details about the kind of fee he wants to impose on the state’s booming natural gas industry to pay for regulating it and for the damage it causes, saying some money should go to the state for environmental cleanups.

Corbett told a radio interviewer that revenue from an impact fee should be used primarily to compensate drilling communities for the negative impacts, such as road damage from heavy truck traffic. But he also said money from the fee should go to the state for environmental cleanups and to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

He said he will unveil his own proposal to the Legislature within a week or two.

“We will work on an impact fee,” he said on WPHT-AM radio in Philadelphia. “The primary amount of money — huge amount of money — will go to the counties and let the counties work with the municipalities then. What comes to the state, in my mind, will be used for, specifically, PEMA and be used for an environmental cleanup of some type.”

He said he would not support any money from the impact fee helping to support the state’s general budget.

Clear majorities in the state House and Senate support imposing some type of fee or tax on the gas drilling industry, which has poured billions of dollars into the state in the last three years to tap into the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation, regarded as the nation’s largest-known natural gas reservoir. The formation runs beneath Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and portions of other states.

Corbett, a Republican, pledged during his campaign last year to oppose any increases in state taxes or fees. While he has said he opposes the imposition of an extraction tax on the industry, he has revealed little about what kind of fee he would support, which has helped stall debate on it in the Legislature.

There are more than a dozen gas industry fee or tax proposals pending in the Legislature.

Lawmakers, for several years now, have debated the merits of imposing a tax on the industry. Corbett views a tax as being different from a fee, although every other major natural-gas producing state imposes a tax on the activity. In some states, the industry pays more than one tax on it.