State shale funds arrive in county

The state Public Utilities Commission has sent $36,379.51 to Warren County municipalities as a result of Act 13, the Marcellus Shale impact fee.

The list of eligible uses is extensive, but County Planner Dan Glotz cautioned the members of the Warren County Council of Governments to keep track of where they spend the money.

At COG’s monthly meeting Wednesday evening at the Youngsville Borough building, Glotz reminded officials in attendance that each municipality must file a report with the PUC by April 15, detailing how it utilized the money.

Brokenstraw and Pittsfield townships received the most due to drilling activity currently occurring there. Brokenstraw received $10,008.38 and Pittsfield received $9,778.67, according to a presentation provided at the meeting.

While all municipalities received some funding, most received less than $1,000. Bear Lake Borough received the smallest allocation in the county $19.94.

Glotz said a frequently asked question regarding the money is whether it can be accumulated from year to year. He replied that it could, but that the funding must be earmarked for a specific future use in a municapility’s budget. The funding can also be split among multiple eligible uses.

He explained that Act 13 sets forth the eligible uses, but the guidelines were “kind of written broadly as to what you can use that money for.”

Thirteen specific categories were identified, ranging from road and bridge construction to emergency preparedness to tax reductions. “If you want to give folks in your municipalities (a tax break), you can use it for that,” said Glotz.

According to Glotz, the PUC is not going to audit each municipality to ensure the money was spent according to the guidelines, but he said future municipal audits might.

Glade Township Supervisor Joe Scully asked if the PUC has the right to “change their mind” regarding eligible uses. “This is the language of the legislation,” said Glotz, adding that legislative action would be required for such a change.

“The amount you are going to receive from them is likely to change over the years,” Glotz cautioned. As drilling increases, the funding to both the county and the municipalities will change.

Funding numbers for 2013 are not available yet.