2014-07-26 / Front Page

‘Impact fees’ to the rescue in town’s water dilemma

Cameron County Commissioners last week approved a request from Driftwood Borough for $55,000 in funding the county has received from shale gas drilling “impact fees.”

The money will be used to repair pumps, fix leaks and generally maintain the borough’s water system.

“Driftwood has had issues with their water system for a while now, so this should help improve water quality and fire safety,” said Commissioner Phil Jones. “This will allow them to stay off the boil-water advisories and maintain the Nanny Run Reservoir as their water source.”

Residents have recently had to boil their water due to quality concerns tied to leaks caused by frequent freeze/thaw cycles and to periods of drought.

Boil advisories are issued as a requirement of the Pa Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) when the borough is forced to use a local water well as a reserve source.

Pennsylvania Act 13 requires shale gas drilling companies to pay an annual impact fee for each well. A portion of the resultant revenue is sent to counties and municipalities.

Earlier this month, Cameron County received its third annual allotment from the Pa. Public Utility Commission (PUC), totaling $103,900. The county also received $25,000 from a state-operated “legacy fund” and can use that money for greenways, natural areas and other environmental projects.

Payments were also sent by the PUC this month to Cameron County local governments as follows: Shippen, $128,563; Emporium, $18,793; Lumber, $15,063; Gibson, $13,949; Grove, $4,666; Portage, $2,984; and Driftwood, $694.

Under Act 13, some 60 percent of the total fees collected go to counties and local governments and 40 percent to the state. The state’s portion is to be used for emergency response planning, training and other activities; water, storm water, and sewer system construction and repair; infrastructure maintenance and repair; as well as environmental initiatives.

Local governments can use the funds to address a variety of drilling impacts, including preservation and reclamation of water supplies; improvements to local roads and bridges; construction and repair of water and sewer systems; delivery of social services; local tax reduction; housing; conservation districts; emergency preparedness and flood plain management.

The 60 percent of the fees not retained by the state are distributed as follows: 36 percent to county governments with wells subject to the fee; 37 percent for host municipalities with wells subject to the fee; and 27 percent for all local governments in counties with wells.

Both the PUC and the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) have posted information about the Act 13 impact fee and related topics on their websites.

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