Benninghoff Votes for Marcellus Shale Bill Passed by House
HARRISBURG – State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) voted for a bill approved by the House on Thursday that would promote job growth, provide an unprecedented amount of money to protect Pennsylvania’s environment and drinking water, and help the Commonwealth move closer to energy independence.

“The bill we passed would help put Pennsylvanians back to work in good-paying jobs,” Benninghoff said. “At the same time, it would take steps to protect our environment, including local drinking water. It also would help promote cleaner, homegrown energy production, which could help reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

House Bill 1950 would empower counties to enact a local impact fee on natural gas wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale, which are commonly referred to as “unconventional wells.” Counties could implement a fee of up to $40,000 on unconventional wells for the first year they are in operation. The fee could be up to $30,000 in year two, $20,000 in year three and $10,000 in years four through 10. Together, this would amount to up to $160,000 in impact fees on each unconventional well.

The legislation would change the way revenues from the leasing of state land for natural gas harvesting are used. The bill would provide $150 million for local conservation districts during the next decade. In addition, 25 percent of revenues from leases would be used to support the Environmental Stewardship Fund.

The bill also would save the state’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund. The fund currently receives $40 million annually from the state’s Capital Stock and Franchise Tax (CSF&T). The CSF&T is set to expire in January 2014, leaving no revenue source for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup fund. Under the bill approved by the House, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund would receive $40 million annually from revenues gleaned from the leasing of state lands to harvest natural gas.

“This bill provides significant funding to help protect our environment,” Benninghoff said. “This does more than just talk about protecting our land and waterways. It puts money behind those priorities.”

House Bill 1950 would strengthen existing state health, safety and environmental rules pertaining to unconventional wells while allowing local communities to enact ordinances within certain parameters pertaining to wells within their jurisdiction.

The impact fee level would keep Pennsylvania ahead of other states in the effort to attract investment in the natural gas industry, which is estimated to create more than 200,000 jobs in Pennsylvania by 2020.

“We produced a bill that balances the need for job growth with our responsibility to protect the environment,” Benninghoff said.

Revenues generated by the fee would be split between state and local governments, with the Commonwealth receiving 25 percent and local municipalities where unconventional wells are located receiving the remaining 75 percent.

The local share would be used to offset impacts associated with natural gas wells. Local communities could use the funds to fix roads and bridges; test, monitor and clean drinking water; or reduce local taxes. The majority – 70 percent – of the state’s share or revenues would go to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to help fix roads and bridges. The rest would go to a group of state departments and commissions, with the largest portion going to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Benninghoff said the bill also would establish a climate in Pennsylvania that would promote the production of homegrown natural gas, which is one of the cleanest-burning fuel sources and is seen by some as a potential alternative for foreign oil.

“Every dollar Pennsylvanians spend on natural gas harvested right here in the Commonwealth could be another dollar they don’t have to spend on oil imported from parts of the world that aren’t very friendly to our country,” Benninghoff said.

House Bill 1950 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“The people across Pennsylvania and here locally have said they want us to do this,” Benninghoff said. “They’re tired of hearing one side criticizing the other while nothing gets done. They’re tired of all the talk. They want to see action. We took action by passing this bill.”

State Representative Kerry Benninghoff
171st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Dan Massing 
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