The Pennsylvania Senate approved its version of an impact fee on natural gas by a narrow vote Wednesday night, but it’s still uncertain whether Pennsylvanians will get a revenue boost or the proverbial lump of coal for Christmas.

The measure must still pass two hurdles before becoming the law of the land in the home of the Marcellus Shale. Following hours of debate where critics of the current proposal attempted to amend the legislation, House Bill 1950 passed the Senate by a vote of 28 to 22. Members of both parties broke rank to vote for and against the measure.

The Senate adjourned for the year on Wednesday. The bill now returns to the state House of Representatives for a concurrence vote. If it passes, the measure would then go to Gov. Tom Corbett. If it doesn’t pass, the bill would go into a legislative conference committee, and the contentious negotiation process would begin again. The outcome is far from certain.

As written, HB 1950 would impose an annual fee on every unconventional well in the state, starting at $50,000 and decreasing over the first 20 years of production. According to a fiscal note, the fee would retroactively raise $94 million for 2011 and more than $154 million in 2012 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 15; Dec. 13). The state would administer the fee, returning 55% of the revenue to local governments and using the rest for statewide programs.

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