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Governor Signs Three Energy Bills. Marcellus Shale Fees and Regs a Reality

Gov. Tom Corbett this week signed three energy-related bills, including the long awaited natural gas impact fee bill which establishes new regulations for the expanding industry.

In signing the bill, Corbett said “The bill enhances protection of our natural resources through stronger environmental standards, authorizes counties to adopt an impact fee, and builds upon efforts to help move Pennsylvania toward energy independence.”

The historic measure is the first comprehensive re-write of the state’s Oil and Gas Act since 1984. It contains much of what had been proposed by his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

Under House Bill 1950 (Act 13 of 2012), natural gas drillers will be required to pay an impact feel to help fund various state and local programs.

The decision to impose the fee will be placed at the county level. If County Commissioners choose not to impose the 15-year impact feel, a critical mass of municipalities can override the ruling. Share percentages are split 60/40 between local municipalities and the state. A copy of the Governor’s Office Release on the bill signing is available here.

Another Marcellus Shale related bill, Senate Bill 1237 was signed into law as Act 16 of 2012. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), expands the state’s Keystone Opportunity Zones. Lawmakers hope that the KOZ expansion will give Pennsylvania a competitive edge over Ohio and West Virginia in attracting a Shell petrochemical refinery to the Pittsburgh area, and spurring the state’s economy.

The Governor also signed House Bill 1294 (Act 11 of 2012), sponsored by Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery). This bill allows public utilities to charge ratepayers up front for distribution system improvement charges (improvements to power lines and water, sewer and natural gas pipelines.) In order to be eligible to recover costs through a DSIC, a utility must submit a longterm infrastructure improvement plan to the Commission.