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Susquehanna, Bradford among counties receiving top payments from natural gas producers

Pictured is a natural gas well.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
Pictured in 2012, a Cabot Oil & Gas natural gas drill at a fracking site in South Montrose, Pa. The Pa. Public Utility Commission recently shared new data about gas well impact fees from 2022. Susquehanna, Bradford, Lycoming and Tioga counties will soon receive between $4 million and nearly $9 million.

Counties in northeast and central Pennsylvania will receive some of the largest payments from natural gas producers from a record fee-collection year, in part due to the number of gas wells located there. The state Public Utility Commission shared details from 2022 earlier this month.

The PUC has collected fees from natural gas producers since 2012, when measures under Act 13 went into effect. The funds are distributed to counties and municipalities, state agencies and the Marcellus Legacy Fund to account in part for the impact that gas drilling has on communities. Funds will be distributed in early July, according to the PUC.

Natural gas companies paid $278.8 million in 2022 due to the rising cost of natural gas and the addition of 574 new wells across the state, according to the commission. That’s a more than 90% increase in payments from 2020 when fees totaled $146.2 million.

Susquehanna, Bradford, Lycoming and Tioga counties will soon collect between $4 million and nearly $9 million. They made up four of the top six counties to receive payments from 2022, with parts of southwestern Pennsylvania rounding out the list. Washington County will take in over $9 million and Greene County close to $6.5 million.

Counties can put the money toward a wide range of uses, including infrastructure upgrades, public safety, tax reduction and environmental projects. PUC reported county and municipality uses from 2021 when most of the money went into capital reserve funds and infrastructure construction.

Natural gas producers reported 1,968 wells in Susquehanna County, the highest number of drilled sites in the state in 2022. Bradford County had 1,586 wells last year.

 A pie chart showing the number of gas wells in seven counties with the highest counts in 2022.
Pa. Public Utility Commission
A recent report from the state Public Utility Commission shows which counties had the most active natural gas wells. The report also details how impact fees were spent in 2021 and how much money has been collected since 2016.

Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall said impact fees have been spent over the years on cellphone towers, 911 systems, fire and EMS departments and tax reductions. He added that the county hasn’t raised taxes since 2005. Hall also said the county would replenish its capital funds after the recent construction of a $15 million public safety building.

About $100,000 in Susquehanna will go toward replacing fire suppression foam that was found to be harmful to humans. The U.S. Fire Administration notes that exposure to the foam can lead to higher risk of cancer and thyroid diseases. Separate from the fee disbursement, Hall said oil and gas company Coterra Energy will also contribute $25,000 to help with old foam disposal. Coterra and its predecessor, Cabot Oil & Gas, have had a controversial past with the county.

Susquehanna’s Auburn Township is expected to receive the most of any municipality in the state from 2022 impact fees. Township Supervisor Dan Trivett said most of nearly $1.5 million will go toward tarring and chipping roads and updating equipment in Auburn.

The PUC has collected more than $2.5 billion from natural gas producers as of 2023.

Counties receiving the most in fees from 2022:
Washington - $9,079,189.32
Susquehanna - $8,960,100.01
Bradford - $7,103,603.24
Greene - $6,497,384.76
Lycoming - $4,803,191.99
Tioga - $4,016,537.20
Butler - $3,040,966.46

Top producer payments from 2022:
EQT Production Co. - $42.3 million
Chesapeake Appalachia LLC - $39 million
Range Resources Appalachia LLC - $33.7 million
Coterra Energy Inc. (formerly Cabot Oil & Gas) - $31.1 million

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.