A Pennsylvania Senate committee moved Marcellus Shale impact fee legislation forward on Wednesday, but observers suggest that the move is mainly procedural and say there is still much work to be done.
The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee voted 10-1 to amend House Bill 1950 by essentially swapping out the language of the bill with the language of Senate Bill 1100, a competing measure. The move allows the Senate to vote on the measure and send it to the House of Representatives by early next week, but does little to resolve the conflicts between the bills.
"It was broadly acknowledged that the amended bill is not the final product," Tim Bittle, author of the lobbying firm Bigley and Blikle's Marcellus Minutes publication, said following the vote.
Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from suburban Philadelphia, was the lone vote against the bill.
As currently written, the measure would impose a $360,000 per well base fee, starting at $50,000 per well in the first year and gradually reducing over the first 20 years of production. The measure also includes an adjustment that increases the fee when natural gas reaches certain price thresholds.
The vote is the first movement on the legislation in weeks. The state Senate passed its bill on Nov. 16 and the state House of Representatives passed its version the next day, but leaders in the two chambers have spent the time since trying to merge the bills (see Shale Daily, Nov. 18; Nov. 17).
The major difference between the bills involve the structure of the fee, the distribution of the revenue collected from the fee and the administration of the fee. The original HB1950 allowed counties to decide whether or not to impose a $40,000 per well fee that decreases over 10 years.
The original HB1950 kept 75% of the revenue from the fee at the county and municipal level, and dedicated the rest for specific statewide programs. SB1100 only keeps 55% at the local level.
The bills also differ slightly in regard to environmental standards (see Shale Daily, Nov. 28).