Republicans move tentatively on Pa. drilling impact fee

    Pennsylvania Senate Republicans will unveil their plan for a natural gas drilling impact fee Thursday, but the proposal is far from complete. Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati said  he’ll release an outline of an impact fee–but not an actual bill–on a Thursday morning conference call. It will be, “the broad parameters of what we’re looking at,” he explained, “and certainly trying to answer as many specific answers as we can. We’re obviously putting it out for feedback. It’s not a bill. It’s a proposal and a concept at this point.”

    Why not introduce the bill itself this week? “The purpose of it is, basically, to get input and feedback before we put it in bill form. A lot of moving parts to it,” Scarnati reasoned. The fee would reimburse local governments for increased services and infrastructure repairs caused by natural gas drilling. Senate Republicans also want the fee to fund environmental cleanup efforts, even though Gov. Tom Corbett is leery of anything beyond impact payments to municipalities and counties.  The bill may not win support of environmentally friendly Democrats, despite the fact the broader severance tax they’d prefer will likely never come to a vote in the Republican-controlled House or Senate.

     “No,” said Allegheny County Senator Jim Ferlo, when asked whether he would vote for an impact fee. “Because the issue–it should be some level of statewide uniformity. The state should be collecting it. The industry should have a common obligation or responsibility across the state. Our proposal is that it be a statewide, uniform collection. And it has to be something greater than the minimal–minimalist approach that Sen. Scarnati and others have.” Scarnati is hoping to pass the bill along with the state budget, in May or June.

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