The PA Public Utility Commission recently announced Act 13 disbursements based on natural gas production throughout the Commonwealth in 2020. Of the $146,254,725 in impact fees released statewide, Susquehanna County was second in line, receiving $4,048,393. Cabot operates wholly within Susquehanna County and is the largest producer of natural gas there.
Also noted within the report are the top-receiving municipalities in Pennsylvania. Of these, three are in Susquehanna County – New Milford, Auburn and Springville townships. Cabot ranked fourth out of seven listed producers in Pennsylvania for payments into the Act 13 fund.
In Susquehanna County, township supervisors have become both frugal and creative with their allotment of impact fees. These funds have been used to upgrade equipment and structures, address poor roads and flooding issues, and provide recreational opportunities for their residents. Auburn Township, for example, was able to replace their entire fleet of trucks and heavy equipment over the past decade. Additionally, a new playground, pavilion and basketball court were installed and road and bridge repairs are ongoing.
“The township’s people know us and see us working on the roads all the time. Almost every road has been improved,” said township supervisor Dan Trivett. He and fellow supervisors Gilbert Oakes and Daniel Strohl are out working on a project nearly every day. “It’s an impact fee, so we give it back to the township.”
Their current project is the replacement of a bridge over Riley Creek which connects state routes 3001 and 3011. The rusting of the bridge deck resulted in its closure about a year ago. “It’s a pretty heavily traveled road,” Trivett related. “A lot of people who don’t live on it use it as a short cut.”
Utilizing new equipment purchased from their Act 13 account, they were also able to invest in an aluminum box culvert. The new machine features full invert which allows for a 30 percent increase in water flow, meeting the challenge of a 500-year flood.
“Ten years ago, we were out of money and couldn’t even meet our payroll,” Jessup Township supervisor Dennis Bunnell told us. “Since we have the impact fee, not only have we been able to make improvements to our roads and buy new equipment, we have been able to keep our people paid.”
A portion of their $205,985 will be used to construct a three-bay, drive-through vehicle maintenance shop, tripling the size of their current garage. “We’ve never been able to do that. It’s going to be a godsend,” Dennis remarked.
“It’s money that we didn’t have that we can use and not worry,” Lenox Township supervisor Fred Benson said. A new roller was purchased a few years ago and a dump truck will be replaced this summer. “We’ve been able to grind up and fix these roads to where they should be,” he stated. “We used to have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”
“We’ve done a lot of sluice pipe work,” Springville Township supervisor Duane Wood said of flood mitigation work there. They have also been able to replace three of five concrete box culverts where tributaries of Meshoppen Creek have persistently caused problems during heavy rains. The next project is a new cinder shed. Material costs soared during the pandemic, so supervisors will rebid some of the project. In the meantime, they can construct the floor and walls.
“Pennsylvania’s natural gas tax continues to deliver important benefits for the entire Commonwealth. While our industry was certainly impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic, this tax further demonstrates how all Pennsylvania communities and families share in the many benefits of responsible natural gas development,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Callahan.
Funds that do not go directly back to the communities in which we operate support a number of state agencies like the Fish & Boat Commission, statewide initiatives such as the Marcellus Legacy Fund, as well as conservation and infrastructure projects. We agree with David that Act 13 has been effective in creating broad-based economic, environmental and national security benefits. Our current tax framework is the right choice for Pennsylvania.