witf's Top Five Stories of 2011: The never-ending impact fee debate

Written by Scott Detrow, StateImpact Pennsylvania Reporter | Dec 22, 2011 8:03 PM

To fee or not to fee -- it was the big question of the year at the state Capitol, and lawmakers still haven’t answered it.

Governor Corbett began the year on the fence, waiting for his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission to issue findings on whether or not to impose a levy on drillers.

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley led the panel, which ultimately did support a fee, as well as dozens of other changes to drilling regulations, in its July report. “Let me make it very clear,” said Cawley when the report came out. “This document, in its entirety, is a recommendation to the governor. No work begins until he says ‘go.’”

But Corbett didn’t say “go” until October, when he unveiled a plan for a 10-year fee beginning at $40,000-per-well. That meant the Marcellus Shale debate didn’t begin in earnest until late fall, which frustrated Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, who had introduced a fee bill back in April. “This is year three now without a comprehensive package or shale fee being finalized. I mean, year three,” the Republican complained in July.

It will be year four in 2012, as legislators went home without a final agreement on a Marcellus Shale bill.

Meantime, Pennsylvania’s gas boom kept growing, with more than 1,600 wells now producing gas. (Where are the wells? Find out here.) Shale gas extraction has become a national issue, even making its way into the presidential campaign.

With more rigs going up every day, and state regulation and fees still unsettled, it will likely be a top story in 2012, too.

And you can follow every aspect of Pennsylvania’s drilling boom at StateImpact Pennsylvania, the website witf runs in conjunction with NPR and WHYY.

Check out witf's other top five stories of 2011:

The fight over higher education funding

Wild weather

The never-ending natural gas drilling impact fee debate

Harrisburg's financial woes

 The Jerry Sandusky scandal

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