Pennsylvania is on its way to officially charging a fee for Marcellus Shale drilling. Gov. Tom Corbett signed House Bill 1950 on Monday evening, giving shale gas-rich counties in the state the ability to impose a 15-year impact fee on unconventional gas wells; now it’s up to the locals.

The law, which is now known as Act 13 of 2012, also updates environmental regulations and standardizes local zoning rules.

“This growing industry will provide new career opportunities that will give our children a reason to stay here in Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “Thanks to this legislation, this natural resource will safely and fairly fuel our generating plants and heat our homes while creating jobs and powering our state’s economic engine for generations to come.”

The roughly 35 Pennsylvania counties in Marcellus country now have 60 days to pass ordinances opting into the program. If a county chooses not to participate, a majority of the municipalities within that county can vote to overrule the decision and join anyway.

If all eligible counties adopt the fee, the state estimates that the program would bring in about $180 million this year and revenue would climb to $211 million in 2013 and $264 million in 2014.

Whether the counties will oblige remains to be seen. Although Marcellus development is spread across the state, drilling to date is focused in two small groups of counties: one in the dry gas northeast and another in the wet gas southwest. Of the roughly 4,298 wells drilled into the Pennsylvania Marcellus since the beginning of 2009, more than half are in four counties: Bradford, Tioga, Washington and Lycoming.

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