By sometime early in July, Indiana County will get $340,515 from fees collected under state Act 13 of 2012 to cover the impact of gas drilling in the reporting year of 2018.
That’s $125,045 going directly to the county — a 34 percent increase over 2017 — and $215,469 to be split among all 38 municipalities, the state Public Utility Commission announced Thursday.
Seven municipalities will get $10,000 or more for fees collected in 2018: the townships of Cherryhill ($41,748); Center ($38,220); White ($24,624); Green ($19,020); North Mahoning ($16,588); and Young ($11,847), as well as Indiana Borough ($14,868).
Another $92,504 will be distributed in a Marcellus Legacy Fund to support environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, as well as rehabilitation of greenways in Indiana County.
For 2017, Indiana County received $92,797 while $76,915 was earmarked for the Marcellus Legacy Fund for a total of $169,712.
There were some wide swings in fortune for some of the municipalities.
Among the largest recipients this year, Indiana Borough’s distribution will be more than four times the $3,341 it received for 2017; White Township is getting 2.5 times the $9,764 it received; and Cherryhill Township’s distribution is up 87.2 percent from $22,299.
Center Township’s distribution will rise 3.4 percent from $36,940; Green Township is up 5.6 percent from $18,005 last year; North Mahoning Township is up 4.8 percent from $15,831; Young Township is up 2 percent from $11,614.
As announced Thursday, $251,830,900 will be handed out statewide, $242,964,000 collected from well operators in 2018 plus $8,866,900 in producer payments withheld during a long-running but recently resolved state Supreme Court case over the definition of a “stripper well.”
County and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $134,740,050 for the 2018 reporting year.
Also, $89,826,700 will be transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, while $18,397,250 will be distributed to state agencies, as specified by Act 13.
The fees are determined by the number of unconventional wells, or wells that are drilled or spudded in a given year to tap into unconventional formations, such as Marcellus shale.
Indiana County was determined to have 23 of 9,560 spud unconventional wells subject to 2018 impact fees totaling $112,368.
The county’s population, estimated for the PUC’s purposes at 84,953 or two-thirds of 1 percent of the commonwealth’s total population of 12,805,537, determines in turn the 40 percent used for that legacy disbursement.
Adjusted to give each county a minimum of $25,000, whether it has wells or not, Indiana County is getting $88,861.
Both totals are further adjusted because of that state high court ruling on stripper wells, which means $16,319 for Indiana County, with $12,676 being added to what the county is getting in the 60 percent total and $3,642 added to the 40 percent legacy share.
Among Indiana County municipalities, West Wheatfield Township ($7,242) gets the eighth largest grant, followed by the townships of Rayne ($4,291), Armstrong ($3,924), Burrell ($3,787), Washington ($3,317), Conemaugh ($3,015), South Mahoning ($2,533), Brush Valley ($2,459), Canoe ($2,261), and East Wheatfield ($2,219).
Blairsville is 18th overall and second among boroughs with a $2,173 share. Then comes the townships of Montgomery ($2,087), West Mahoning ($2,002), Pine ($1,948), East Mahoning ($1,901), Grant ($1,646), Blacklick ($1,566), Buffington ($1,508) and Banks ($1,254).
Bringing up the rear are the boroughs of Homer City ($1,103), Clymer ($1,024), Ernest ($550), Saltsburg ($546), Cherry Tree ($254), Marion Center ($158), Glen Campbell ($139), Creekside ($124), Plumville ($116), Shelocta ($96), Armagh ($75) and Smicksburg ($51).
The PUC said this year’s distribution is approximately $33.4 million higher than last year, driven primarily by an increase in the number of wells paying impact fees from 8,518 for the 2017 reporting year to 9,560 for 2018.
The commission also said the price of natural gas has remained relatively constant over the past year and did not impact the well fee calculations.
Materials posted on the PUC Act 13 website include pie charts, one of which shows counties with the largest totals of road miles affected by drilling.
With 1,126.35 road miles, Indiana is seventh, after 2,265.49 miles in Westmoreland, 2118.03 in Allegheny, 1,703.34 in Washington, 1,434 in Bradford, 1,415.39 in Butler and 1,231.2 in Fayette.
Statewide the distribution rings to almost $1.7 billion what has been handed out over the past eight years under a law many see as an alternative to the severance tax Gov. Tom Wolf and others have sought, especially since 2015.
In neighboring counties:
• Armstrong County is getting $1,431,271.83 in direct grants, $71,468.93 in legacy funding for a total of $1,502,740.76. Recipients close to the Indiana County line include the townships of Plumcreek ($106,320.96), Cowanshannock ($74,504.45) and Kiskiminetas ($65,504.68).
• Westmoreland County is getting $1,172,802 in direct grants, plus $383,840.71 in legacy funding for a total of $1,556,642.71.
• Jefferson is getting $216,351.35 for county-wide needs, $47,677.87 for legacy needs, for a total of $264,029.22.
• Cambria is getting $144,396.64, all for legacy needs.
The PUC said it has forwarded the impact fee information to the state Department of Treasury for payment and expects checks to be distributed in early July.