PUC maintains impartiality on Pa. drilling impact fee

    As local governments in Pennsylvania begin grappling with whether to impose the newly minted natural gas drilling impact fee, the state agency in charge of administering it is claiming total impartiality.

    State Public Utility Commission members say they won’t be advocating for or against impact fees in any of the counties that host natural gas wells. In some cases, however, they may have to come down on either side of the issue.

    Drilling companies, for instance, could appeal a local impact fee by going to the Commonwealth Court.

    But that’s not any different than what public utilities do today, according to PUC Chairman Robert Powelson.

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    “They go to the Commonwealth Court on an appeal basis. We’d have to represent our position and defend it.” he said. “And we tend to win.”

    Another PUC commissioner says that’s not unusual. The agency has administrative judges on staff to decide such disputes.

    Counties have the next two months to decide whether to levy a fee.

    But a critical mass of municipalities in a county could override its decision.

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