The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 4, 2013

State senator: Act 13 is lucky number for conservation districts

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — As Northumberland County conservation officials worry about how to replace possible lost state funding, three state legislators assured them that they still will receive funds though Act 13.

During a Northumberland County Conservation District legislative luncheon on Thursday, state Sen. John Gordner, R-27 of Berwick, Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108 of Sunbury, and Rep. Kurt Masser, R-107 of Elysburg, talked about how Act 13 will provide conservationists with more money than the possible lost line items in the state budget for 2013-14.

Gordner presented the group with information regarding the possible lost money.

“I have not lied to you guys yet, and I won’t start now,” he said. “There may not be any money for you coming up, and you may get a rough patch, but because of Act 13, you will receive more money than you did in previous years.”

Act 13 of 2012 was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012 with some provisions going into effect this month.

The law provides for the imposition of an unconventional gas well fee, also called a drilling impact fee, and the allocation of the funds to local and state entities. A significant portion of the money will be used to cover the local impacts of drilling while several state agencies will receive funding for a variety of other purposes, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission website.

Under the law, the PUC administers the collection and disbursement of the fees. Also, the PUC may review ordinances at the request of a county or municipality as well as complaints filed by a well operator or other party aggrieved by a local ordinance.

Gordner distributed a handout, which provided the group with projected numbers.

In 2013-14, the conservation district fund, without any funding from the state, would receive $5 million. Half of that would be distributed to the 66 county conservation districts, and the other half would be collected by PUC.

The commission then would distribute 50 percent equally back to the 66 districts, and the other 50 percent would be disbursed to districts with unconventional gas wells on a prorated basis.

For Northumberland County, that breaks down to about $57,000 for the year.

Gordner said each year, that number will continue to climb, and by 2015-16, the combined districts would be chopping up a total of $7.7 million.