PA May Limit Impact Fee to Counties That Ban Fracking

Member Group : Center Square

(The Center Square) – For advocates of natural gas, recent action in the legislature may give signs of hope.

A Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee advanced two bills that would restrict natural gas revenue from counties that move to ban natural gas development and would create a task force to study the export of liquefied natural gas.

Senate Bill 1331 would prohibit counties that ban natural gas development on county-owned land from receiving a county share of impact fees, nor could they receive Marcellus Legacy Fund grants. In 2021, $234 million of impact fees were collected from natural gas drilling, as The Center Square previously reported.

Support and criticism of the bill followed a partisan split.

“Local leaders who want to protect their natural resources, park lands and communities from the potential dangers of fracking should be able to do so without being penalized,” said Sen. Carolyn Comitta, D-West Chester. “I do not believe it’s fair to withhold all of this funding simply because fracking is not permitted on certain lands…this seems like a heavy-handed approach to what is essentially a local control issue.”

When Sen. Katie Muth, D-Royersford, asked which counties have banned fracking across the entire county, Yaw said he didn’t know of any county that has, and said the legislation “has nothing to do with fracking.”

“One of the purposes of this legislation is to pre-empt problems down the road” around natural gas development, Yaw said.

Development, however, may depend on the liquefied natural gas market.  House Bill 2458 would create a task force to study how to expand Pennsylvania’s LNG market “and what obstacles are currently preventing Philadelphia from becoming a leader in exporting LNG,” according to a legislative memo written by Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia.

“I think our time would be better spent on studying ways to invest in the clean energy economy and to incentivize renewables,” Comitta said. “There are numerous public health, public safety, environmental justice and other impacts on our communities that come with growing our LNG exports.”

Both bills were passed and will face first consideration in the Senate.