The new fees on unconventional gas wells have raised so far over $200 million for the Commonwealth, but what that means for Warren County remains to be seen.
According to the state Public Utilities Commission, $201,600,000 has been received from a total $205,730,000 that was due by Sept. 1.
"We must establish that pot of money we are working with before we can determine what money will be distributed to the local governments," PUC Press Secretary Jennifer Kocher said.
The legislation signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in February establishes a $50,000 fee for each spud, or the actual start of drilling in an unconventional formation such as the Marcellus shale or Utica shale in the first year.
The PUC will be responsible for collecting and distributing the fees. Under the legislation, 60 percent of the fees collected will go to counties and municipalities, and the remaining 40 percent will go to statewide programs.
Data released by the PUC shows a total of 58 companies paying fees on 4,031 horizontal wells and 418 vertical wells to the Commonwealth, with 13 drillers having delinquent fees as of Thursday.
Warren-based Pennsylvania General Energy paid a total of $4,170,000 on 83 horizontal wells and two vertical wells to the PUC.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. is at the top of the list for fees paid with $30,840,000 on 615 horizontal wells and nine vertical wells in the Commonwealth. Drillers paying more than $20 million in fees included Talisman Energy Inc., $26,440,000 on 540 wells; and Range Resources Corp., $23,670,000 on 475 wells.
"Based upon how the law is written and how the money is to be distributed, a disputed well moving from horizontal or vertical (eligible to pay the fee) to stripper (not eligible to pay the fee) can change the calculation for a local government significantly. With wells still being disputed, we are continuing with our practice of not issuing any numbers until we are certain what local governments will receive. We do not want to provide any false indications of what money may be available to a local government," Kocher said in an email.
According to the Associated Press, the state will take nearly $25 million off the top and the 60 percent of what's left will be split among 37 counties and some 1,500 municipalities that host gas wells. The money can be used to fix roads, bridges and other infrastructure, provide affordable housing, preserve open space and buy equipment for first responders, among other expenses.
"The law requires the Commission to provide the money to the local governments by Dec. 1 and we are on track to make that deadline," Kocher said.
Warren County Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said the county hasn't received information on how much money will be disbursed.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, permits have been issued for three Marcellus shale wells in the county, two to Range Resources in Eldred and Pittsfield townships and one permitted last in March to Hunt Marcellus Operating Company from Dallas, Texas, in Limestone Township.
There are estimates available, and according to the website www.fracktrack.org, a total of $49,458 will be returned to the county.
That falls within the $40,000 to $80,000 estimate of fees that Vanco made during a meeting in March.
"At a time when budget shortfalls are stretching state and local governments to their limits, responsible American natural gas production is helping to support tens of thousands of good jobs and providing enormous, much-needed revenues for critical services," Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber said in a press release after the PUC's release of the impact fee payments. "And while these figures are indeed staggering by any measure, it also serves as a stark reminder that we must ensure that we have common sense policies in place, especially local zoning uniformity at the center of Act 13, which encourage economic growth, job creation and additional revenue."