Pennsylvania Senate leaders are aiming at passing a natural gas impact fee bill by early next week.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has unanimously approved sections of the measure strengthening environmental regulations. It gave the green light to a 61-page amendment hiking penalties imposed on drillers who violate regulations, and broadening buffer zones between natural gas wells and water sources. The amendment actually strips all impact fee language out of the bill.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati said the parliamentary tactic is a way to buy more time for Republicans and Democrats to negotiate details of a fee structure. "It is obviously maybe the most divisive, as far as the level of the fee, the type of the fee that is imposed upon, and distribution," said Scarnati. "So in order to give everybody an opportunity to have a fair debate on that, we chose to take it out."
The goal is to create a "model ordinance" for municipalities. "You know, we're trying to work through a plan here that still gives locals – and I believe they should have – autonomy in deciding what goes on within that community. Yet some consistency across the state. So we're trying to strike a balance there, and we're certainly trying to keep townships out of court," said Scarnati.
A new impact fee plan, based on Governor Corbett's proposal, will likely be introduced on Monday. The goal is to amend it into the bill in time for a final Senate vote on Tuesday.