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County to see increase in Act 13 Impact Fee disbursement

County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $123,217,163 for the 2021 reporting year due to increased Act 13 Impact Fee disbursement. Eagle file photo

Due to an increase in the price of natural gas and other factors, the county and its municipalities will see a significant increase in disbursements from the Act 13 impact fees the state assesses on uncoventional natural gas wells.

From impact fees charged in 2021, the county will receive $2.4 million and municipalities will receive a combined total of a little more than $4 million for a total of around $6.4 million, according to figures released by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The money will be distributed in early July, according to the PUC.

Last year, the county received $1.4 million and municipalities received a combined total of about $2.5 million for a total of about $3.9 million

An increase in the price of natural gas is the primary driver behind the increase in distributions, which will be nearly $100 million more than last year statewide, according to the PUC.

The average price in 2021 was $3.84 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) versus the average price in 2020 of $2.08 per MMBtu. In addition to the price increase, 518 new wells went into production last year, according to the PUC.

County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $123,217,163 for the 2021 reporting year. Additionally, $86,030,934 will be transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $25,189,477 will be distributed to state agencies.

Butler County will receive $2.28 in impact fees and $189,689 in Marcellus Legacy funds for a total of about $2.47 million from 2021.

From 2020, the county received $1.35 million in fees and $110,069 in legacy funds for a total of $1.46 million.

County Commissioner Kevin Boozel said the commissioners expected an increase in the county’s Act 13 disbursements from 2021 after they decreased in 2020 from the amount received in 2019. An increase in the volume of gas extracted by drillers was another factor in the increase, he said.

“We anticipated it would start going up,” Boozel said.

The distribution the county received last year was less than the $2.12 million it received in 2019. That sum included approximately $1.96 million in impact fees and $158,715 in legacy funds.

“I would assume volume is driving that as well,” Boozel said.

Commissioner Kim Geyer said the commissioners are happy about the increase.

“A lot of that is base on the price of natural gas. That has increased our impact and legacy revenues so we're really excited about that,” Geyer said.

The county distributes its Act 13 funds in accordance with a resolution the commissioners adopted in 2016.

The first 40% of the disbursement, but in no case less than $750,000, goes to the Emergency Services Department for operations or debt service.

If any funds remain, 15% and not less than $250,000 goes to technology or capital improvements.

Of any remaining funds, 35% and not less than $200,000 goes to the county Infrastructure Bank.

Any funds remaining after those three distributions are allocated at the commissioners’ discretion.

Through the Infrastructure Bank, projects costing more than $40 million throughout the county have been completed, Boozel said.

“We’ve chosen to invest it in the economy instead of running county government on it, he said.

The success of the Infrastructure Bank has led to discussions between the county and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority about PENNVEST providing the county with up to $20 million that it would loan at low interest to municipalities for water, storm water and sewage projects, he said.

Geyer said the commissioners allocate legacy fund monies to environmental stewardship programs, trails, greenways, recreation and parks.

This story was updated Tuesday, June 21 to reflect a correction in the amount of money municipalities will receive.