Lindsay Hoskins: The love-hate relationship between Act 13 and citizens

Another form of legislation that positively affects the Pennsylvania communities is Act 13, passed in 2012. “The law places an impact fee on every well drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale formation. The levy will change from year to year based on natural gas prices and the Consumer Price Index, but in 2012, drillers paid $45,000 per-well. (Smaller, vertical wells paid $9,000.)” (Phillips, Cusick, Colaneri, & Legere, 2013).

The act set into motion an unconventional gas well fee that is imposed on gas companies. Its purpose was to enact stronger environmental standards and monetary benefits for areas involved and being affected by gas companies. The impact fee brought in $204 million to Pennsylvania for 2011, and $202 million during 2012. There was less money in 2012 because the fees are tied to the price of natural gas, which declined by a third” (Phillips et al., 2013).

The money is distributed between local governments and the Marcellus Legacy Fund that helps fund state highways and bridge improvements, environmental clean-up projects, and many other areas that help improve Pennsylvania infrastructure (“Marcellus Shale,” 2013).

While it appears on the surface to be beneficial, not all of Act 13 is positive for citizens. While the gas companies may be compensating the counties and municipalities handsomely, they are also benefiting from the law. The law initially allowed gas companies to drill in areas even where local officials had voted against wells, but this part of the law has since been ruled unconstitutional by Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court (Su, 2012). As seen in photo 1, gas companies could build very close to homes or in other areas even if citizens deem them unacceptable. Other stipulations of Act 13 also benefit companies and harm citizens. Since its enactment, doctors are bound by law not to divulge what harmful fracking chemicals are affecting their patients, leaving the gas companies with little accountability for their environmental health implications. Recently this issue has been sent back to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to re-evaluate if it is constitutional or not (Cusick 2013). The act also has regulations for how the money can be spent. “They can use it to provide low income housing for gas workers, for example, but not to conduct air quality testing” (Su 2012).