A year after Pennsylvania enacted an impact fee on the Marcellus Shale industry, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) launched a new website that would allow the general public and local governments to see where the revenues are going.
Under Act 13, or the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012, certain Marcellus Shale drillers have to pay a fee to the PUC every year.
The fee initially is given to the PUC and then divided among the municipal and county governments. Pennsylvania collected $198 million from the fee in 2012. The money can be spent in one of 13 ways established by the PUC, like social services or tax reductions, or go toward offsetting the impact of the shale drilling in the area — road damage, for example.
Previously, the PUC provided the information on its website as a downloadable document. Spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said dedicating a separate website to Act 13 increases transparency.
"It allows you to look down to the municipal level," she said. "There's various categories of how the money is distributed depending on where the municipality is located in relationship to the well, and it breaks all of that information down for anyone who is interested. They can see exactly how that money was distributed, where the calculations came from and where the money is going."
Kocher said the data is only from the past year, so there's room for the website to expand.
"As we build upon it, it will also provide a graphical comparison of 'this is how much money we received this year, this is how much money we received last year' and allow anyone who was interested to compare from year-to-year the monies that are coming in and going out," Kocher said.
Kocher said the website does more than just provide reports, it analyzes the numbers too. She added that the website features pie charts and rankings of counties and municipalities that are getting the most money from shale drillers.
Kocher stressed the website can be utilized by everyone, not just municipalities.
"We've had quite a bit of interest from all avenues," Kocher said. "People who are just interested in seeing what kind of influx of money their local municipality has gotten and other information like that, so we really think that it's something for everyone."