Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, has added yet another drilling fee proposal to the dozens already clamoring for attention, but like the more recent additions, he's put his own variation on the theme.
The new proposal from Ellis would assess the fee on a county level, and keep all of the money at the local instead of doling some out to various environmental or other funds. The dollars collected would be used restrictly for impacts related from drilling - and if they collect more money than needed for drilling-related repairs, the additional funds would be used as a tax break.
"Whatever project – whether township, borough or county-level, can only use the money for restoration or repairs," he said.
"They can’t use it for anything else. We're not giving them an additional revenue that they could spend willy-nilly."
Like this week's tweaks to Sen. Joe Scarnati's impact fee plan and another House proposal from Bucks County Republican Marguerite Quinn, Ellis would assess a flat fee that drops over time. As in Scarnati's, he would end that fee after 10 years, but starts it at a lower level: the first two years of production would be assessed at $25,000 each, and years three through 10 would be $10,000 a piece.
He compared that amount to the more modest severance tax enacted in Arkansas, which was trumpeted by Senate Republicans and some in the industry last year as more of an acceptable approach.
The decision to collect that fee would be done on a county level, giving flexibility to those who currently have worked out agreements with companies to do road repairs and other renovations, Ellis said.
Unlike Scarnati and Quinn (who has said she'll offer her proposal as an amendment to the budget package), he's more flexible on the timing. He said most of the plans were from southeastern lawmakers, who have a much different perspective: "It's important that people from the drilling area are at the table and talking about how the money should be used."