Everyone in the news has been talking about how hydraulic fracturing is benefiting the economy of Pennsylvania as a whole. It turns out the industry is doing more than paying individuals for the mineral rights to their land. According to a Wall Street Journal story on April 28, 2013, there's another example of how the fracking industry is making a decisive impact on individual communities in PA.
As part of the overall cost of doing business, gas drilling companies are forced to pay a tax of sorts, called an impact fee, to the state. What may be more surprising to some than the fee's existence is that the state of Pennsylvania has elected to distribute these impact fees directly to county and municipal governments statewide.
Paychecks vary widely across the state
It only makes sense the amount of money each municipality received would vary significantly. After all, while the Marcellus Shale formation spans much of the state, there are simply areas that are more conducive to drilling than others. Thus, there are some counties that are home to dozens or even hundreds of wells, while others don't have any active wells because they aren't situated over the formation at all.
Still, the number of drilling sites in a given county wasn't the only determining factor when the state began assessing the contributions to distribute. Population also factored in to the amount of money counties received. Philadelphia County received a total of $1.3 million despite the fact that there are no fracking wells in the county whatsoever.
The largest payment to a single county, according to the Wall Street Journal, was the $8.4 million received by Bradford County on the New York border. If that money had been evenly distributed to each of the 62,622 residents of the county, everyone would have received a check for just over $134. Instead, the checks were left in bulk sums for local governments to spend as they saw fit.
What did the money pay for?
When the impact fee was created by the Pennsylvania legislature, it was put in place specifically to force natural gas drilling operators to contribute to the well-being of communities across the state. Of the millions of dollars distributed to local governments, most of the money went directly to public works projects, infrastructure improvements or other investments in the general public interest.
For some communities the paycheck allowed for new emergency vehicles. Others spent money repairing roads. Others still decided to put the money away for a rainy day. Regardless, the impact of distributing impact fees from natural gas drilling can be seen across the state, from one municipality to the next, and stands as an example of one way the fracking industry has directly benefited many Pennsylvania residents.