Bradford County commissioners confirm they plan to impose an impact fee on natural gas drillers in the county.
Because Bradford County has the most drilling sites in the state, this decision is being closely watched.
The two Republican commissioners, the majority, said they still don’t like the impact fee, even though they will vote for it at Thursday’s meeting in Towanda.
Bradford County leaders said they have the most drilled gas sites in the state and it’s clear the industry intends to keep growing here.
Soon many residents will enjoy the profits of that growth.
“Unless you live in Bradford County or come here, you don’t understand everything the gas industry has done for us,” said Commission Chairman Doug McLinko. “Hundreds of millions of dollars in our roads, we’re not talking repairs, we’re talking re-builds, they put our people to work.”
Rather than a state-wide impact fee, Governor Tom Corbett left it up to the counties to impose the fee.
If a county voted no, then its municipalities could, in a majority vote, impose the fee themselves.
McLinko said they will impose the county-wide fee since a majority of municipalities want it.
“Overwhelmingly they support it, however there have been mixed emotions all through this whole process,” said McLinko.
The third county commissioner, Mark Smith, a Democrat, said he has always been in favor of an impact fee and he is happy with his decision.
The majority commissioners said they felt the impact fee was confusing and the decision was being forced on them. They held a county meeting last month with state leaders hoping to get more information.
“The governor signed this into law, it was thrown on our laps with the stopwatch clicking,” said McLinko. “It’s the Obamacare of natural gas. We voted on it to find out what was in it and that’s exactly what they did.”
The majority of the money from the fee will go back to the local governments but the commissioners said it’s not clear exactly how much Bradford County will get.
However, if they are going have the fee they will put it to good use.
“We’re going to look for ways to reduce the tax burden on the county,” said Commissioner Daryl Miller.
The commissioners plan to take that vote on the impact fee at their meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Bradford County Courthouse in Towanda.