Environmental chief defends impact fee choices

Several local communities that do not contain drilling sites have seen a rise in truck traffic associated with natural gas drilling. Many people feel that damages caused by the traffic was inadequately compensated by funding associated with impact fee allotments.

“The (Act 13) formula for returning funds back to municipalities is flawed. Muncy is a hub of all activity at this end of the county. All gas industry truck traffic has to go through Muncy to reach the wells right outside the borough,” said William Ramsey, Muncy borough manager.

“When the state set up the funding process, they were certainly concerned about municipalities that had wells inside of them, but they weren’t looking at things like the Muncy corridor,” he added.

Michael L. Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, defended Act 13’s fee allotment formula.

“I am not aware of any changes in the works, in terms of how impact fees are calculated. I know it is a very complicated formula, which takes into account a lot of variables, including population,” Krancer said during a meeting with Sun-Gazette staff Thursday morning.

“I do know that the fees aren’t simply based on whether a municipality has a well in it or not,” he added.

Krancer cited Philadelphia as an example. Although the city has no drilling sites within its limits, it received about $1.3 million in impact fees.

Krancer maintained that road damage, like all damage caused by natural gas drilling, was important to his department.

“The department is very aware of the types of damages that can be caused by heavy trucks. This is why we’re looking into a variety of ways to reduce truck traffic, including new methods of water delivery systems,” Krancer said.

“As we continue to keep Pennsylvania at the cutting edge of natural gas production and environmental safety, we’re looking into projects such as pipelines which will deliver untreated water right to well sites,” he added.

One such pipeline already exists in the state. The privately owned line was constructed by Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners and is about two-thirds completed.

Aqua America Chairman Nicholas DeBenedictis is a former DEP secretary. He said his time with the department served him well when his company began the pipeline project, which stretches from Piatt Township, through Jersey Shore and into Tioga County.

“With a pipeline, everything is computerized and more regulated. No company can pull more from a stream or river than they’re legally permitted to,” DeBenedictis said.

“There’s data being collected every day, which is reviewed by members of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission,” he added

According to DeBenedictis, over a year of use, the pipeline will eliminate the need for about 90,000 truck trips a year. While a typical water truck can deliver about 4,000 gallons per trip, the pipeline can deliver almost a million gallons a day.

“We estimate that’s about 250 less truck trips every day. This isn’t going to take all the trucks off the road, but new industry growth doesn’t have to cause more damage,” he said.

However, a new pipeline won’t help the small municipalities that are struggling to maintain the infrastructure of their already damaged roadways.

In an effort to pool resources, the Lycoming County Planning Commission, along with the state Department of Transportation, has asked several municipalities to help partially fund an intensive traffic study to focus on routes 220 and 405 and the John Brady Drive corridors, with a particular focus on the intersections of Water and Main streets in Muncy, and the intersection of Routes 220 and 405 in Hughesville.

Once the study has been completed, the county will begin working on a plan to fix the roads. According to Mark Murawski, the municipalities have been asked to contribute $30,000 collectively. The rest of the funding will come from the county’s Act 13 allotment and possibly through PennDOT funds.