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Any Month is One Month for Strippers

By Michael Vennum

In its decision of Snyder Brothers, Inc. v. Public Utility Comm'n, 1175 C.D. 2015 (Mar. 29, 2017), the Commonwealth Court was asked to determine the meaning of the term "any" as it applied to stripper wells and the payment of impact fees.  A stripper well is defined as an "unconventional gas well incapable of producing more than 90,000 cubic feet [cf] of gas per day during any calendar month. . . ."  58 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2301 (emphasis added).  Because Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Act relieves owners of stripper wells from paying impact fees, the determination of the term became financially important to the Petitioner, Snyder Brothers, Inc., who claimed that several of its wells were stripper wells because they did not produce more than 90,000 cf of gas per day in at least one calendar month.  Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission contended that Snyder Brothers owed significant impact fees and penalties as to the purported stripper wells because the wells indeed produced more than 90,000 cf of gas per day during several months of the year.

In a 5 to 2 decision, the court held that the plain English definition of "any" is unambiguous and, thus, signifies only "one or a singular month."  As such, when an unconventional gas well cannot produce more than 90,000 cf of gas in at least one month, it is a stripper well and not subject to impact fees.

Tags: Act 13, Impact Fees, Unconventional Well Pads, Stripper Wells, Energy, Pennsylvania

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