Last updated: February 17. 2013 2:11AM - 35 Views

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PHILADELPHIA ‚?? Gov. Tom Corbett thanked a conference room packed with gas industry leaders for the sector‚??s contributions to Pennsylvania‚??s economy Thursday.

‚??I‚??m here to say, ‚??thank you,‚?? ‚?Ě Corbett said at industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition‚??s 2012 Insight Conference in Philadelphia. ‚??Thank you to the industry that has added another $200 million to the common good.‚?Ě

Corbett was referring to revenue from Act 13, the natural gas impact fee passed in February that raised approximately $200 million in the first round of fee payments, which were due Sept. 3.

‚??We got that one right,‚?Ě Corbett said. ‚??Last year at this time the opposition was fretting about the state‚??s failure to pass a $100 million extraction tax. This year, the citizens of Pennsylvania collected twice that, all to be targeted to public services and protecting the environment.‚?Ě

Act 13 imposes a flat annual fee on gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania that is tied to the price of natural gas and declines over time. Horizontal gas wells drilled prior to 2011 were assessed a fee of $50,000 each. Assuming natural gas remains in the same price range, those wells will be charged a fee of $40,000 in 2013, $30,000 in 2014, $20,000 in years four through ten and $10,000 in years 11 through 15. Wells drilled in 2012 begin the cycle at $50,000.

Corbett also touted the jobs created by the natural gas and associated industries and the new investment in Pennsylvania he said the industry has spurred, calling the Marcellus Shale boom ‚??the tip of the spear‚?Ě of a ‚??new industrial revolution.‚?Ě

He said the abundance of cheap natural gas in Pennsylvania has prompted renewed growth in the state‚??s manufacturing sector and that he promoted the availability of cheap energy in the state during a March trade promotion trip to Europe.

The governor also took sharp aim at opponents of natural gas development, claiming they have ‚??no understanding of the industry.‚?Ě

‚??Our opponents agree that we can land a rover on Mars, but they can‚??t bring themselves to agree that we can safely drill a mile under our own soil,‚?Ě Corbett said.

Meanwhile, a contingent of several hundred of those opponents protested outside the Pennsylvania convention center where Corbett spoke.

The rally was organized in conjunction with Shale Gas Outrage, a counter-conference sponsored by environmental and anti-drilling groups that‚??s also taking place in Philadelphia Thursday and today.

Claudine Luchsinger, a protester from Narrowsburg, N.Y., said Corbett‚??s presence at the conference ‚??says that the governor‚??s been bought by the gas industry.‚?Ě

‚??We‚??re here to tell Governor Corbett that our Delaware River is not for sale,‚?Ě Luchsinger said.

Corbett accepted more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions from the natural gas industry for his 2010 campaign for governor and is frequently criticized by anti-drilling groups for his pro-industry stance.

Corbett‚??s administration was also well represented at the conference.

Michael Krancer, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, represented Mitt Romney in a debate with former DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty, President Barack Obama‚??s surrogate.

Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker and Governor‚??s Office Energy Executive Patrick Henderson participated in panel discussions, and Department of Labor and Industry Deputy Secretary Michelle Staton is scheduled to speak at a panel today.

The conference concludes today.

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