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PUC Discusses Logistics of Shale Impact Fee Collection, Distribution

Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, the state Public Utility Commission, noted the changes it will be experiencing due to the new Marcellus Shale law.

Under the bill, signed into law on Monday, the PUC is responsible for administering the collection and distribution of a fee that local governments may impose to address impacts associated with the state’s growing natural gas drilling industry.

As the agency transitions into its new role, PUC Chairman Robert Powelson said that the collection and distribution of impact fees will be outsourced to a third party, private company for the next 18 months.

Powelson went onto say that the commission does not necessarily need to create a permanent internal structure to deal with the fee collection, noting other programs that are outsourced. He did say that most of the internals staff ramp-ups at the commission have been to cover new duties involving review of municipal ordinances relating to natural gas development.

Municipalities may request that the commission review draft ordinances, and conversely, a well operated aggrieved by an ordinance may also ask the PUC to review the ordinance to determine if it violates the Municipal Planning Code.

Under the law, a resident or well operator aggrieved by an ordinance also has the option to bring action before the Commonwealth Court, bypassing the PUC’s authority. While this is an option, the commission feels that if an issue bypasses the commission and goes directly to court, it is “likely the issue were very intensive.”