With Pennsylvania natural gas production slowing in the last year and a half, money generated by the state’s Act 13 impact fee in 2015 fell by nearly 20 percent compared to the year before. That drop means most counties and municipalities hosting the gas wells will see smaller checks when they are sent out this month than they did last year.
Greene County Commission chair Blair Zimmerman said when he saw that the county would be getting $3.9 million this year compared to $4.5 million last year, he had to pick himself up off the floor, but for the reason one might think.
“Because I expected it to be at least, at least, a million less. So I was shocked,” Zimmerman said. “ Yes, it’s a significant drop, but from what I had been hearing, I expected it to be around $2.9 (million) and so I’m pleasantly surprised it was what it was.”
Zimmerman said, with the drop in production, he’s also hearing less about traffic and infrastructure issues from neighboring townships.
“I haven’t heard the same, for lack of terms, ‘complaints’ from the townships about damage and trucks and the roads and such,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said Greene County has been able to set aside $3 million into a rainy day fund, which it will draw from until gas production rebounds. However, the commissioner notes the county borrowed from those funds last year during the state budget impasse to keep its social services afloat. He said the reduction in funds will not be easy to deal with, but he does not see it being offset with revenue hikes.
“We have a lot of townships that are asking us for help with different things in their township," Zimmerman said. "We have been good stewards of our money that we have received so far, so I don’t know that we will make it up. I think, currently, we will be OK with what we have.”
Greene County’s total budget is just under $30 million.
Since the impact fee was instituted five years ago, Greene County has received about $18 million from the fund. The impact fee is determined based on the year the well was drilled, its production and the average price of natural gas.