When Gov. Tom Corbett approved Act 13 last month, he gave county officials across the state 60 days to impose an annual fee on unconventional gas wells, or to opt-out. With five weeks until the April 14 deadline, almost all of the eligible counties are on the road toward imposing the fee, but the biggest potential hold-out also happens to be the most active county in the Marcellus Shale (see Daily GPI, Feb. 15).

The first payments cover horizontal unconventional gas wells drilled before the end of 2011, some 3,987 wells in 37 counties, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The figures vary from estimate to estimate because some wells are inactive, and because operators must pay a lower fee for vertical wells drilled into deep shale formations. The standard fee is set at $50,000 per well for its first year, meaning the program could bring in $200 million this year for state and local programs.

But with 77% of those wells focused in just six counties — Bradford, Tioga, Washington, Susquehanna, Lycoming and Greene — the revenue projections are in the hands of a small group of local officials. And the biggest of that bunch is also the biggest question mark.

The 992 horizontal unconventional gas wells drilled in Bradford County through the end of 2011 account for nearly a quarter of all drilling in the state and could bring in nearly $50 million by some estimates.

But with two of the three commissioners publicly taking opposing positions on the fee, the issue could ultimately come down to the vote of the remaining commissioner, Doug McLinko. Although McLinko has said he doesn’t support the fee, in particular for its retroactive elements, he recently told the Towanda Daily Review that he might vote to impose it if the program has enough support at the municipal level.

(To read the full story go to shaledaily.com).

©Copyright 2012Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.