Now that the state House and Senate have passed separate gas impact fee bills, the haggling begins.
The Senate's preferences tend to win out in these situations.
We just hope our local representatives and senators will represent the correct priorities in the final bill.
To sum it up, preserve some level of local control and protection.
Regarding revenues from the impact fees, most of the money needs to have local or county control attached to it.
We know prying these funds out of the collective hand of Harrisburg is a big task, but it is an absolute must in this instance.
Regarding land use, localities have to have something to say about zoning laws as they relate to gas drilling, just as they would have zoning decisions to make regarding other industries.
The state's role is supposed to be environmental protection as it relates to gas drilling. We have state agencies and personnel in place to deal with that.
Beyond paying for that responsibility, the coffers in Harrisburg have little right to this money.
Local municipalities are being turned upside down for this industry.
While we are thrilled by the economic development and opportunity created in these municipalities, that does not mean those municipalities and counties should be shunted to the back of the room when it comes to state legislation and revenues.
Consider that in many of the rural areas of this region, there are infrastructure overhauls that will be necessitated by this industry with very little in the way of local revenues in place to pay for that overhaul.
Consider that in Tioga County, the employee pool for drivers and other positions important to the industry is fast becoming depleted.
While we can quarrel about the impact fees themselves $50,000 per producing well to start and decreasing to $10,000 over a 10-year time frame we don't have a particular difficulty with the fee level.
But the money belongs primarily in local or county hands, with some discretion locally for proper distribution of those funds.
And localities shouldn't have to give up their zoning rights in return for the revenues.
We're counting on our local lawmakers to protect the region with proper revenue distribution and zoning rights in the final impact fee legislation.