Drilling money earmarked
The stage is being set for the distribution of another earmark of revenue from impact fees paid by natural gas drillers.
While public attention has focused mainly on impact fees going to counties and municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region, the state impact fee law directs distribution of 40 percent of the revenue collected from drillers for a variety of statewide purposes under an umbrella Marcellus Legacy Fund.
The Commonwealth Financing Authority last week approved guidelines for five programs that will tap some of this money.
- The abandoned mine drainage abatement and treatment program providing grants to restore and maintain sections of streams impaired by acidic drainage from coal mines in northeast Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
- The watershed restoration program providing grants to restore streams harmed by pollution runoff.
- The baseline water quality data program providing grants for projects to document the quality of groundwater in private water supplies.
- The greenways, trails and recreation program providing grants for new projects and to maintain existing ones.
- The abandoned well plugging program providing grants to plug old oil and gas wells.
About $14.5 million in impact fee revenue is already available for these programs and that amount will grow this year, said Scott Dunkleberger, an official with the Department of Community and Economic Development. CFA will accept grant applications through July 31 and has scheduled action on awards at a Nov. 13 meeting.
State police funding
It has become traditional for governors to make a few preview funding announcements in advance of their annual budget address which comes Tuesday for Gov. Tom Corbett.
Corbett has done this for the Pennsylvania State Police facing a manpower challenge due to a wave of retirements.
The governor said his budget proposal will include funding to cover the training of 290 new cadets during the next year as well as the hiring of 90 civilian police dispatchers.
The current budget provides for a new class of 90 cadets.
This action comes with 136 troopers having retired or announcing plans to retire and an additional 1,243 troopers eligible to retire by the end of June.
"We are still at critical numbers," said State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. "The problem is that the number of new troopers is not keeping pace with the number of outgoing troopers."
(Robert Swift is Harrisburg bureau chief for Times-Shamrock Communications newspapers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)