Corbett promotes Act 13 impact fees

Gov. Tom Corbett made a brief stop Tuesday at the Williamsport Regional Airport to hear from local officials how Act 13 natural gas drilling impact fees are being used in Lycoming County.

The stop here was one of three in the region. The governor toured facilities in State College and Pleasant Gap before making the trip to the local airport, where administrators showed him plans for a new terminal building that will use $1 million of Act 13 funding.

Corbett also heard from John Grado, the city’s director of community and economic development and city engineer, about housing projects that would add more than 100 units to the city’s inventory and upgrade existing properties. About $570,000 in Act 13 funding is expected to be used for those projects.

The governor said natural gas drilling has created thousands of direct jobs in Pennsylvania while generating more than $200 million in Act 13 fees in 2012, the first year of the legislation. Another $260 million is expected to be distributed in July.

Corbett said that an impact fee imposed on drillers was a better choice than a tax on gas production. “They pay all the taxes that every other corporation does,” he said.

He added that taxing gas companies would have placed more restrictions on them that are not in place in other natural gas-producing states.

“What we were trying to do was give an even playing field,” he said.

Money generated from Act 13 turned out to be twice the amount predicted, according to Corbett.

Corbett also stressed the importance of having an airport that offers modern services to leisure and business travelers alike.

Trace Pinchak, regional manager of Flint Energy at 1050 Broad St., Montoursville, summed up the reason his company wants to see an updated airport terminal. He said he would be traveling today to Philadelphia for a flight to Calgary, Canada, because local airfares are too expensive.

“I’m looking forward to having that competitiveness here,” he said.

Flint Energy also flies about 10 to 15 employees a month into the Williamsport Regional Airport, according to Pinchak.

A new airport terminal building, which is estimated to cost about $13.6 million, would enable two more airlines to do business there, said Mark Murawski, county transportation planner and chairman of the Williamsport Regional Airport Authority.

Half of those traveling in and out of the airport are doing business in the Marcellus Shale industry, he said.

The present airport does little in the way to signal that it is the “gateway to the Marcellus Shale region, Murawski said.

“We’ve got an old 65-year-old airport. We need a modern airport,” he said. “It’s going to allow us to grow.”