Posts Tagged ‘Greg Skrepenak’

Natural gas boom can easily go bust – OPINION

YOU CAN practically hear the Luzerne County Commissioners yelling: “Eureka! Thar’s treasure in them thar’ hills.”

The trio knows that – much like a century ago – a potential financial bonanza lies below our feet in the form of a coveted fuel. This time, it’s not anthracite.

Instead, companies aim to extract natural gas from deep below Northeastern Pennsylvania’s crust, using new drilling technology to tap a rock formation known as the Marcellus shale. The drillers, and speculators hoping to profit by hoarding land-lease agreements, have knocked on doors throughout the region, promising to put money in the pockets of cooperative property holders.

Luzerne County officials rightly recognize that this region’s (second) energy revolution offers a rare opportunity.

If handled properly, it can provide a much-needed source of relatively inexpensive fuel for home-heating and other purposes. Plus, the industry can be a significant money-maker for private landowners as well as public entities, including the commonwealth (which controls state forests and game lands) and the county.

Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom, therefore, deserves to be handled with extreme care so that current residents and future generations reap the full benefits. The approach will require specialized knowledge of geological, environmental and legal issues, coordination among all involved parties and patience.

With no disrespect intended, this is not a job for the Luzerne County Commissioners to attempt on their own.

Commissioner Greg Skrepenak’s proposal to create a gas exploration task force, which will involve professionals, makes sense in the short term. After studying the issue, however, this task force might decide it’s more sensible to combine efforts with a regional or statewide group that has even more expertise and can leverage the best deals on behalf of the taxpaying public.

The commissioners could vote as soon as Wednesday to request proposals for drilling in the county-owned Moon Lake Park area. What’s the rush? Most advisers have been telling private property owners that there is no need to leap on this bandwagon; indeed, better deals probably can be secured at a later time and by coordinating efforts with surrounding property owners rather than trying to compete with them.

In recent years the county has entered into some poorly arranged contracts, such as the juvenile detention center deal. The stakes are too high to botch this one.

Unfortunately, the current commissioners might see natural gas leases as an easy out – an escape from the burdensome budget deficits that have become all-too typical here in recent years. It would be a mistake, however, to make hasty decisions for short-term gain that could impact this region and its residents for the next century.

Luzerne County

officials rightly recognize that this region’s (second) energy revolution offers a rare opportunity.

Copyright: Times Leader

County looks to gas for cash

Commissioners consider asking for proposals to drill at Moon Lake Park.

Having witnessed the natural-gas drilling boom both in other counties and for some local residents, Luzerne County officials are considering the windfall potential for county lands.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the county commissioners are expected to approve issuing a request for proposals to drill in a little more than 2,000 acres in Moon Lake Park. They’ll also likely vote on creating a gas exploration task force proposed by Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

Commissioner Steve Urban said he’s been following the gas progress for about six months and feels now is the time to offer the park lands because surrounding landowners are seeking leases as well.

“People are already interested in the land around Moon Lake, and I’m optimistic they’d be willing to talk to us,” he said. “It’s good to be proactive.”

He said the going rates seem to be between $2,600 and $3,200 signing bonuses per acre and perhaps 18 percent royalties.

Beyond the benefits to the county, he suggested local customers would find a benefit in receiving domestically produced natural gas.

He said the drilling wouldn’t affect plans to construct mountain-bike racing courses there.

Skrepenak said he’d likely support offering the lands for leasing, but said the county should have fully researched the topic first.

“I definitely think we need to take this issue as far as we can,” he said.

The task force would gather information, but also be a source for residents and local companies seeking work with the gas companies, he said. It should be made up of county officials, other public officers and experienced professionals, he said.

The shale drilling has shown to be “recession proof” in Texas, he said, which is why he finds it an exciting consideration. “It is the hot topic,” he said. “It’s been seen as a positive thing for the most part.”

Dave Skoronski, director of the county Geographic Information System/Mapping Department, noted there are promising signs that companies are considering the county. Several companies in related industries have come to his office to buy the county’s map data.

“They’ve been coming, and some people who work at the desk said they were doing gas research,” he said, noting that Burnett Oil Co., Inc., Mason Dixon Energy, Inc. and Elexco Land Services, Inc. have purchased map information.

Panel created

Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak was named to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Task Force.

The group has been established to identify issues related to exploration and development of natural gas in Pennsylvania and to advise on policy related to those issues. Skrepenak participated in the task force’s first conference call on Sept. 26.

Copyright: Times Leader