Five new conservation programs will be the beneficiary of $14 million in new funding from impact fees paid by companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, the Corbett administration has announced.
The funding will be managed through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, the administration said. The programs are aimed at addressing abandoned mine drainage, abatement and treatment, watershed restoration and protection, water quality data, greenways, trails and recreation, and orphan and abandoned-well plugging programs in the state.
New CFA funding will add to $10.9 million in impact-fee funding already distributed to county governments for conservation and recreation programs, as well as $7.2 million in the state’s Growing Greener fund.
Guidelines announced by state officials establish eligibility requirements for five separate programs.
• The Abandoned Mine Drainage Abatement and Treatment Program provides grants to restore and maintain stream reaches impaired by abandoned mine drainage and, ultimately, to remove these streams from the Department of Environmental Resources impaired waters list.
• The Baseline Water Quality Data Program provides grants to use the scientific principles and practices for water sample collection and analysis to document existing groundwater quality conditions on private water supplies.
• The Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program provides grants for the planning, acquisition, development, rehabilitation and repair of greenways, recreational trails, open space, parks and beautification projects.
• The Orphan or Abandoned-Well Plugging Program provides grants to provide mechanisms to plug abandoned and orphaned wells that have the potential to cause health, safety or environmental concerns.
• The Watershed Restoration and Protection Program provides grants to restore and maintain stream reaches impaired by the uncontrolled discharge of nonpoint source polluted runoff and ultimately to remove these streams from the Department of Environmental Protection’s impaired waters list.
Act 13 amendments to the state’s Oil and Gas Act, which Corbett signed into law February 14, 2012, created an impact fee based on wells drilled in the state. Last year, the fee generated more than $204 million. The majority of the revenues are distributed to local governments where drilling is taking place, with the remainder of the money used for statewide programs or distributed to counties based on population.
— John L. Kennedy, for the Law Weekly