BROOKVILLE — Monday night, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a long-debated bill that imposes an impact fee on Marcellus Shale gas extraction.
Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners completed their part in the process by passing an ordinance that will give authority to municipalities and townships in the county to pass a resolution which will allow county municipalities and townships to receive impact money.
“As commissioners, we were asking, ‘Is this the right thing to do for Jefferson County?’” Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik said. “Regardless if you agree with it or not — and we don’t all agree, especially with this law — we believe by passing this, we are doing what’s best for municipality and township officials.”
Pisarcik said the ordinance gives those officials the power to bring more money into their areas, if they choose to.
Corbett’s action means Pennsylvania has joined more than 25 other states in imposing some kind of levy on natural gas drillers.
Tuesday, the commissioners approved to advertise the unconventional gas well fee ordinance as prepared by county Solicitor Jim Dennison, for imposing an unconventional gas well fee on each unconventional gas well spud in Jefferson County.
Counties in the state are allowed to choose if they want to pass such an
ordinance, and have been given 60 days to decide. If commissioners decide against doing so, they could be overruled if half of the municipalities or towns representing half of the county’s population approve their own resolutions in favor of a fee.
As Corbett signed the bill into law Monday, Jefferson County Commissioners didn’t take too long with their decision.
“As far as passing this today, we think that’s our due diligence to get the process started,” Pisarcik said.
Revenues from the fee will be divided between local governments and a variety of state-based environmental, infrastructure and economic-development programs.
Pisarcik said the commissioners are hoping to receive a map of Jefferson County in the next few days, detailing the gas wells that are currently in the county and the number of permits that have been issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“That will kind of give us a ballpark figure on the sums of money that would come into the county, which will then be distributed down to the municipalities and townships,” he said.
Also during Tuesday’s commission meeting, Kelly Williams, a watershed specialist for the Clearfield County Conservation District, announced an opportunity for Jefferson County residents who are interested in getting their water tested.
As Williams is also the chairperson for the Water Resource Committee of the Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Council, she applied for a $150,000 grant through the Colcom Foundation for residents in an eight-county region to get free testing for water affected by gas well drilling.
The offer was made available in November and December, but because Williams didn’t receive a huge response from Jefferson County residents, she announced the offer is still available, but only until Feb. 29.
“I really didn’t want to give up — I want to help as many people as I can,” she said.
Applications are also still available in Centre, Clinton, Cameron, Potter and McKean counties.
Williams said the application is easy to fill out, and although the grant specifies to help low- to moderate-income families first, higher-income families won’t necessarily be discounted.
The application is available on headwaterspa.org, and residents can call the Jefferson County Conservation District for more information at 814-849-7463.
Williams said that even if a well has already been drilled in an area, she encourages residents to get the water tested, because it can serve as a baseline if more wells were to come into the area.
Also Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners:
• Approved a grant modification extension between Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging, extending the existing grant agreement until Dec. 31, 2017, pending review by the county solicitor.
• Entered into an agreement in the amount of $2 million with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Contract No. ME 300-1235 for the Jefferson County Business Park. This is contingent upon input from the county’s solicitor.
• All county offices will be closed Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day.
• The next regularly scheduled commission meeting will take place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.