Posts Tagged ‘Susquehanna River’

Hess could be first to successfully tap Marcellus Shale in Wayne County

By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)
Published: August 16, 2010

Although a natural gas drilling ban is in effect for much of Wayne County, one company is lining up permits for what may become the county’s first producing wells – in a small area just a hop across the Delaware River watershed boundary.

Hess Corp. has natural gas development permits either pending or recently approved for at least six hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale wells along the county’s far northwestern border, according to state Department of Environmental Protection and Susquehanna River Basin Commission records.

Nearly all of the county lies within the Delaware River watershed, a vast 13,539-square-mile area that drains into the Delaware River. But this sliver in its far northern reaches is in the Susquehanna River watershed. There, the presiding Susquehanna River Basin Commission has granted hundreds of water-use permits to the burgeoning industry centered regionally in Susquehanna and Bradford counties.

Hess, which has leased at least 100,000 acres in northern Wayne County in a joint-development partnership with Newfield Exploration Co., had received regulatory approval from both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and DEP for three Marcellus Shale wells in the Susquehanna watershed as of Saturday, according to a record review.

The permits were issued in late June and July. The pending and approved wells are concentrated in an area that encompasses Scott and Preston townships and Starrucca. The company will be “drilling and hydraulically stimulating one or more horizontal natural gas wells,” according to each permit application.

“An accounting of how (the companies) are going to use the water” is made before the commission decides to issue a permit, Susquehanna commission spokeswoman Susan Obleski said.

Efforts to reach officials with the New York City-based Hess Corp. were unsuccessful.

Drilling in Wayne County’s portion of the Delaware River watershed is a different story.

The Delaware River Basin Commission recently enacted a moratorium on the drilling of producing natural gas wells, which may be in effect for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, Wayne County does not have a single producing well, nor has it seen any wells hydraulically fractured.

The only natural gas company that has attempted to hydraulically fracture a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Wayne County, Lafayette, La.-based Stone Energy Corp., was issued a stop-work order in the summer of 2008 for its partially completed well in Clinton Twp. because it lacked a permit from the Delaware River Basin commission.

The Delaware River commission, a federal-state environmental regulatory agency charged with protecting the environmental integrity of the watershed, has stringent jurisdiction over the watershed and over natural gas drilling operations there.

It has placed a blanket moratorium on natural gas drilling until it develops its own industry regulations which are expected to exceed some DEP enforced laws.

“(Delaware) River Basin Commission consideration of natural gas production projects will occur after new … regulations are adopted,” said spokesman Clarke Rupert.

Mr. Rupert said draft regulations are expected to be published by the end of the summer. They will be followed by a series of public meetings and comment periods prior to final approval by commission vote.

“I expect those draft regulations will include provisions relating to the accounting of water movement since we would want to know the source of water to be used to support natural gas development and extraction activities in the basin,” Mr. Rupert said.

Meanwhile, the Delaware River commission is allowing 10 natural gas exploratory wells to go forward in Wayne County. They will not be hydraulically fractured, produce gas, or require much water. Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. received approvals for these wells from DEP prior to the June 14 moratorium.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

What They’re Saying: MSC Applauds PA Budget Agreement, Stands Ready to Work with Lawmakers on Comprehensive Framework for Developing the Marcellus

  • MSC President Kathryn Klaber: “[W]e need an updated and modernized regulatory and legislative framework, and a fair tax strategy that keeps our state ahead of the curve in attracting the investment needed to bring these resources to the surface
  • [Severance] tax should not be set in a “vacuum” but as part of a “comprehensive evaluation” of laws and regulations governing the industry.

Shale Coalition Wants “Fair Tax” & Modernized Rules. Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber says the fiscal code language about the severance tax proposal includes a commitment by elected leaders to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of “how best to seize on the opportunities of the Marcellus in the future, and do so in a manner that benefits all Pennsylvanians.” Klaber called on state lawmakers not to look at the severance tax in a vacuum, that there is more at stake than putting a little extra money in state coffers…..”we need an updated and modernized regulatory and legislative framework, and a fair tax strategy that keeps our state ahead of the curve in attracting the investment needed to bring these resources to the surface.” (WDUQ Radio, 7/7/10)

Pennsylvania needs to stay “ahead of the curve in terms of investment”: “The Marcellus Shale is not the only shale play that is under development in the United States, said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director the Marcellus Shale Coalition.”There is a lot of competition for dollars” to develop gas wells, she said. Pennsylvania needs to stay “ahead of the curve in terms of investment” in gas drilling, Klaber said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. (Towanda Daily Review, 7/7/10)

Marcellus Shale represent[s] a tremendous opportunity: “The rich natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale represent a tremendous opportunity in the form of new jobs and economic stimulus to mostly rural communities across the commonwealth,” said Governor Rendell. “We have a responsibility to ensure that the economic benefits are balanced with the need to protect the local environment and the residents of communities where the work is being done.” (Pocono News, 7/7/10)

Gas rush has generated a frenzy: In some corners of the energy industry, tapping the shale gas has become every bit as enticing and adventurous as exploring in the Arctic and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The gas rush has generated a frenzy in the region over the past two years. In some corners of the energy industry, tapping the shale gas has become every bit as enticing and adventurous as exploring in the Arctic and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (New York Times, 7/7/10)

Comprehensive Evaluation of State Natural Gas Laws Needed: Now that the legislature has agreed in principle on the tax, energy industry leaders are hoping to influence the debate on the tax and regulation in coming months. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, said on Tuesday the tax should not be set in a “vacuum” but as part of a “comprehensive evaluation” of laws and regulations governing the industry. Klaber argued that a “fair tax strategy,” coupled with laws and regulations that recognize the industry’s recent technological gains, would allow Pennsylvania to compete for new investment in the booming industry. (Reuters, 7/7/10)

For Mom, it’s just overwhelming: On a farm north of this old timber town that stretches out along the banks of the Susquehanna River, Perry Landon’s 82-year-old mother confronts the promises and trepidation of a new era of energy wealth. “For Mom, it’s just overwhelming,” Landon says. “She grew up in the Depression. Her parents were very poor. It’s hard for her to get her mind around this amount of money, and that you would get it for doing nothing.” Gas is testing oil’s position as the most sought-after energy commodity, as the global hunt for black gold faces technological limits, environmental risk and relentless political instability in oil-rich regions. (New York Times, 7/7/10)

Drilling under river is OK’d in Bradford Co.

By ANDREW MAYKUTH The Philadelphia Inquirer

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources signed a $6.15 million agreement Monday with Chesapeake Energy Corp., giving the company the right to drill the Marcellus Shale under a seven-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River in Bradford County.

Under the lease, which applies to 1,500 acres of river between Towanda and the Wyoming County line, Chesapeake is permitted to access the shale with wells drilled on either side of the river. No well bores will penetrate the river itself.

Horizontal-drilling technology makes drilling for gas beneath the waterway feasible. With wells that reach laterally for thousands of feet, operators can capture gas under a large area from a remote location.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says that under-river gas exploration poses no more risk than any of the 1,400 other wells drilled into the Marcellus formation, which is a mile below the surface. The lease is separate from the state’s offering in January of 32,000 acres of state forests, which generated $128.5 million to help close the state budget gap.

The $6.15 million raised by the Susquehanna River lease will help keep open 24 state parks that had been threatened with closure because of the budget crisis, said Christina Novak, DCNR spokeswoman.

DCNR’s Susquehanna River lease may conjure memories of the 1959 Knox Mine disaster in the Port Griffith section of Jenkins Township, when the Susquehanna broke through a coal mine that was dug just below the river bottom. A dozen miners died in the flood.

Geologists say subsidence is not an issue with gas exploration. The well bores are only a few inches in diameter.

Copyright: Times Leader

Sanitary Authority won’t treat Shale water

The board is still considering building a second plant.

By Steve
Staff Writer

HANOVER TWP. – The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority board has decided not to treat wastewater from the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling process at its current plant, but is still considering building a second plant for that purpose.

Fred DeSanto, executive director of the authority, informed the state Department of Environmental Protection last week that the board wanted to withdraw an application to revise its current permit to allow treatment of wastewater high in total dissolved solids from gas and oil drilling operations.

After meeting with DEP officials, who explained the requirements the authority would have to meet for a revision, authority officials decided it would be too risky to contract with an energy company to accept 150,000 gallons of wastewater per day and possibly exceed the limits of dissolved solids imposed by DEP, said Robert J. Krehley, the authority’s director of administration and planning.

“We just knew that a good majority of the time, we’d be over the limits,” Krehley said.

DeSanto said the board is waiting to hear from a consultant it hired to look into the feasibility of constructing a stand-alone plant.

John Minora, president of Pennsylvania Northeast Aqua Resources, said his staff is still researching some technical issues, but he expects to make a recommendation to the board at the next meeting on April 20.

Minora said he’ll likely recommend constructing a second plant because it would benefit the authority and ratepayers as well as energy companies; it’s just a matter of working out details based on data he is still waiting to receive.

Disposing of wastewater in Hanover Township would save energy companies in transportation costs, given that the closest treatment plant that can process drilling wastewater is in Williamsport, and the next closest is in Somerset County. The Williamsport plant doesn’t have the capacity for wastewater from all nearby drilling sites, he said.

Minora said a “closed-loop” treatment plant would remove solids from the water; the solids would be disposed of in landfills. The treated drilling water would be high in chloride and diluted with treated water from the authority’s current treatment plant; that blended water could be sold back to drilling companies to re-use in drilling operations.

Given that the current plant would be discharging less treated water into the Susquehanna River because it would be added to the treated drilling water, the authority would in turn discharge less nitrates and phosphates into the river. The authority could then sell credits to other treatment plants that discharge nitrates and phosphates in excess of state limits, Minora said.

The additional revenue could be used to stave off rate increases to customers.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader

WVSA sees profit in treating drill water

By Rory
Staff Writer

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is looking to join the ranks of regional sewer authorities profiting from natural gas drilling.

Following Williamsport and Sunbury, where authorities are already treating drilling wastewater, the WVSA is requesting proposals to build a closed-loop pretreatment plant on its land in Hanover Township.

The plant would accept wastewater only within certain pollution parameters, and the treated water would need to be reused for other gas drilling.

Proposals are due by March 29, and the authority hopes to have the plant built within a year, pending necessary permitting.

“I think this thing can get built in seven, eight, nine months or quicker, so again, when will it be permitted?” said John Minora, president of PA NE Aqua Resources, which is consulting on the project.

The plant would be able to treat 800 gallons a minute with a daily flow of 1 million gallons, plus storage and a filling station. The system could utilize any of several techniques that could include separation and disposal of waste in a landfill, evaporation and land application of the minerals or treatment and dilution, Minora said.

Dilution would require the same amount of water, plus about 10 percent more, he said, which would come from the plant’s treated sewage water.

Removing the solids and chemicals is easy, he said, but extracting the dissolved salts is not, which is why dilution might be the most economical option.

“Honestly, we’re open,” he said. “We’ll consider any system that does that job.”

Unlike at Williamsport or Sunbury, however, the resulting Hanover Township water won’t be sent to the existing treatment facility and would need to be purchased by gas companies for use in drilling.

“We want a system that isn’t going to discharge (into a waterway, such as the Susquehanna River), whether or not there’s a byproduct we have to dispose of in another fashion,” he said.

There is an old rail spur at the site that could be reconditioned. Rail is the preferred transportation method, he said, because it’s faster and less disturbing to the community. However, a trucking route is being considered utilizing a second entrance that passes only a few homes, he said.

That route requires the rebuilding of a washed-out bridge.

“We’ve looked at some alternatives, where really the impact on the neighborhood is minimal,” he said.

All proposals require a bid bond of 10 percent of the total bid. Minora declined to offer an estimated cost.

Copyright: Times Leader

DEP mulls changing discharge standards

State wastewater regulations for natural gas drilling may change to reduce pollution threat.

By Rory
Staff Writer

Anyone concerned with pollution threats from increased natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has likely encountered the phrase, “total dissolved solids” and recognizes its potential to be a problem.

However, fewer no doubt know how it can become a problem or that – because of issues emerging from the increased drilling – the state Department of Environmental Protection is considering changes to wastewater discharge standards for TDS that would become effective Jan. 1, 2011.

DEP is seeking public comment on the proposals, and citizens have until Feb. 5 to make them. Earlier this month, Penn State University released a document to help people understand the issues and participate in the process.

Rather than a specific chemical, TDS is a measurement of all dissolved matter – such as minerals, salts and metals – in a given water sample and can be naturally occurring. The federal safe drinking-water standard has a recommended level of 500 milligrams per liter for TDS, but no specific regulation. However, concentrations above that can damage treatment equipment and be toxic to aquatic life and people who drink it.

DEP is proposing the changes, which would limit the TDS levels in wastewater discharges, because it determined that some state waterways, including the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, don’t have the ability to absorb increased levels of TDS.

According to the Penn State report, most of the water used to prepare gas wells – often called “frack water” – is between 800 milligrams per liter and 300,000 milligrams per liter.

The industry estimates the amount of such high-TDS wastewater needing disposal in Pennsylvania will increase from about 9 million gallons per day in 2009 to nearly 20 million gallons per day by 2011, the report said.

DEP’s proposal would change two parts of state code.

First, it would require high-TDS discharges to be diluted to at least 500 milligrams per liter, plus lower thresholds for sulfates and chlorides and, for the oil and gas industry, limits of 10 milligrams per liter for strontium and barium.

Second, it would change water-quality standards for the actual waterway, which would, in turn, affect what could be discharged into it. That regulation change hasn’t yet been officially proposed.

To comment on the proposed rules, the Penn State report recommends several approaches: be specific in citing documents or the target of the comment, stick to comments on the proposed rule rather than water-quality in general, include personal experiences and note where the proposed rules are written unclearly.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Drilling plan includes recycling

By Rory
Staff Writer

TUNKHANNOCK – As if responding to previous community criticism about a similar facility, company officials hoping to build a drilling-waste treatment plant near Meshoppen said Tuesday recycling water is part of their plans.

“It makes sense to reuse this water,” said Ron Schlicher, an engineer consulting for the treatment company. “The goal here is to strive for 100-percent reuse, so we don’t have to discharge.”

Wyoming Somerset Regional Water Resources Corp. is proposing a facility in Lemon Township in Wyoming County to treat water contaminated during natural-gas drilling in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

To do so, it requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

That process includes a period of public comment, for which the hearing at the Tunkhannock Middle School on Tuesday evening was held.

Wyoming Somerset is the second company to propose such a facility in Wyoming County. Two weeks ago, DEP held a similar hearing for North Branch Processing LLC, which wants to build a plant just outside Tunkhannock in Eaton Township to discharge up to 500,000 gallons daily of the treated waste into the Susquehanna River.

Citizens attending that hearing complained that the discharges could potentially harm the river’s ecology and suggested that the waste simply be recycled into other fracking jobs.

Wyoming Somerset’s proposal is to discharge up to 380,000 gallons daily into the Meshoppen Creek, but company officials said they hoped to sell it all back to drillers instead.

“The discharges need to be in place to make sure that the weather doesn’t have an adverse effect on operations of cleaning the water,” said Larry Mostoller, Wyoming Somerset’s president. “I’ll be willing to drink what we produce. I’ll be willing to drink what comes out of this plant, and you can hold me to that.”

That promise and the vague goal of full reuse didn’t sit well with the roughly 75 citizens who attended the hearing. Questioning everything from why the facility couldn’t guarantee zero discharges to its proposed site, residents came out squarely against the plan.

Many non-residents joined them, including two from Bucks County, one an environmental scientist and the other a lawyer, and a man from New Jersey.

Don Williams, a Susquehanna River advocate from Lycoming County, warned that cashing in on the gas-laden Marcellus Shale is “jeopardizing our land and our feature for the false promise of jobs” and money.

Of particular frustration for many were the unknown details about the plant’s design. Schlicher presented an overview of it, noting reverse-osmosis filters, evaporation tanks and a three-tiered output to provide drillers with water at various levels of treatment.

The water that could potentially be discharged would be “essentially meeting drinking water standards for most things,” Schlicher said, but not everything, including lead, aluminum and iron “because the surface water body can handle them,” he said.

Design specifics won’t be known until the second part of the application, when the company proposes how it will meet its discharge limits. That part likely won’t have a public hearing, DEP officials noted.

Those wishing to comment on the proposed facility may do so until Oct. 30 by contacting the DEP. The number for its Wilkes-Barre office is (570) 826-2511.

Copyright: Times Leader

Drilling to begin on P&G property

The company hopes to see more than two dozen wells drilled on its property.

By Rory
Staff Writer

MEHOOPANY — In October, drilling for natural gas will begin at the Procter & Gamble plant in Mehoopany, and, if geologic estimates pan out, the company hopes to eventually see more than two dozen wells drilled on its property, saving it “tens of millions” of dollars annually for years to come.

The Wyoming County plant consumes about 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year that is piped up from the Gulf Coast, company spokesman Alex Fried said. The hope is that drilling on its own property will alleviate much of that need.

“If the wells are productive, sure there’s the possibility. We’ve got enough property there,” Fried said. “If they can supply that, I’ll gladly take it because I’d rather get it from under my own ground.”

Located in Wyoming County, the plant sits in a potentially productive section of the Marcellus Shale, the layer of rock about a mile underground stretching from New York to Virginia that has natural gas locked within its pores. Though it was known about for decades, accessing the rock has only recently become financially feasible with advancements in technology.

Colorado-based Citrus Energy Corp. contracted with P&G to construct five well pads at the company’s 1,300-acre property on the bank of the Susquehanna River. The township gave approval for all five sites, as did the state Department of Environmental Protection for the erosion and sedimentation plans.

Additionally, Citrus got a permit in December from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw 499,000 gallons of water per day from the river. It has been bonded with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to cross state Route 87 and signed a road-maintenance agreement to use Carney Cemetery Road to access the sites.

Citrus still needs drilling permits from DEP for two sites, but Fried said the sites currently aren’t necessary. “The (sites) at the westernmost and easternmost part of our property aren’t going to be built until next year,” he said.

Starting in October, a well will be drilled at each of the middle three pads. Next year, if the geological indications look good, the company will consider drilling the wells deeper by going horizontally through the shale seam.

After that, the focus will shift to the two remaining pads.

If that all works out, Fried said, P&G could lease land at a 300-acre warehousing site about a mile from the plant, where at least one more pad could be built. In all, Fried estimated, perhaps 30 to 35 wells could be drilled.

Fried declined to discuss the royalty deal struck with Citrus, but described it as “very competitive” because the company could offer a variety of advantages, including access to water, industrial zoning and a direct connection between the buyer and seller.

It also boasts rail access, which Fried said could be used in the future to haul away the contaminated fluid that’s used to break open the rocks and release gas.

The drillers “can haul away 35,000 gallons at a time on a tanker car,” Fried said.

Another benefit is that the gas doesn’t have to go far to get used. “The pipeline will bring it right to the plant, so we’ll still get our royalty, except it just will be a discount off the price of the gas that we’re purchasing,” Fried explained.

Fried said interest in inking a deal came from both sides. He began researching the possibilities at the beginning of the year, around the same time unsolicited calls started rolling in from gas companies.

Originally, the companies simply wanted to lease the land and sell the gas, but Fried had another idea – keeping the gas at home.

“In many cases, they just came in and said, ‘We want to lease,’ ” he said. When he told them how much gas P&G would be willing to buy each year, “their jaws dropped and hit the floor,” Fried said.

Copyright: Times Leader

Amid cheap gas, Pa. drillers carry on

State is not seeing the same reduction in Marcellus Shale drilling as other areas.

By Rory
Staff Writer

SCRANTON – The price of natural gas has dropped nearly to levels that make drilling in the Marcellus Shale unprofitable, according to a Penn State educator, but drillers have been hedging their prices and the Northeast is still the best-paying gas market.

Freefalling from a high in 2008 of around $14 per thousand cubic feet, prices are currently around $4 per thousand cubic feet, hovering just above the $3.75 threshold that companies believe makes Marcellus Shale drilling unprofitable, said Tom Murphy, an educator with the Lycoming County Penn State Cooperative Extension. He spoke on Tuesday at a public-education meeting sponsored by the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority at the Steamtown National Historic Site.

But many companies hedged their gas sales months ago at around $9 per thousand cubic feet, he said, and because much of the Northeast uses natural gas for home heating, Pennsylvania isn’t seeing the same reduction in drilling rigs as other shale drilling areas.

“The proximity of that (the Marcellus Shale) is what a lot of this is about,” Murphy said. “They are leasing right now, but they’re leasing for a lot less than they were before. … It’s not a matter of is this coming. It’s a matter of how big is this going to be.”

Companies are mostly leasing strategically to fill in holes in drilling units while slowing production to reduce supply and increase prices, he said. But the usual three-month to six-month falloff between reduced production and reduced supply isn’t occurring. “There’s so much gas coming out of these shales, and the Marcellus Shale is one of those, that the lag time is nine to 12 months,” Murphy said.

Still, the “weakest link” in the industry is dealing with contaminated wastewater, he said. While there are eight deep-injection wells in the state, only one is available for industry use, and it’s in the southwestern part of the state.

The vast majority of the water is being treated at municipal sewage facilities. There, the heavy metals are removed, and the brine is simply diluted and dumped into waterways in the Susquehanna River watershed.

“It’s actually starting to get to the point where it’s starting to exceed what can be put in” the watershed, Murphy said.

Another water issue is managing pollution at the drilling site, said Jim Garner, the Susquehanna Conservation District manager. “They talk about restoration; they like to do restoration,” he said, displaying a photograph of sediment fencing at a site that had been compromised by runoff. “In practice, it’s a different situation. … We’ve only seen several sites fully restored. It can be pretty challenging.”

As the drilling ramps up, hundreds of trucks will be driving over Susquehanna County’s many dirt roads, he said. The unstable roads combined with the county’s many waterways create 2,712 potential pollution sites, he said. “In a few weeks, it’s really going to be interesting to see how these roads don’t hold up,” he said.

Garner’s district has approved only one erosion and sedimentation plan and just two others have been submitted, he said. All the activity and unresolved concerns have created a swirl of public speculation, he said. “I’ve been with the district 15 years. I have never heard anything create rumors like this.”

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Drilling issues to be addressed

Texans to share their experiences

HUGHESVILLE – As night falls over Beaver Lake Road, work lights gradually accentuate a towering structure visible between the rolling hills. In the middle of a roughly square-acre site, the drilling rig is about halfway through a four-week stay at this rural Lycoming County site.

Soon thereafter, the rig will leave, crews will arrive to tap the natural-gas well, gas will begin being pumped into regional transmission pipelines and Chief Oil & Gas LLC of Dallas, Texas, will begin reaping income.

So will Neil and Louise Barto, though hardly what they say they deserve. They signed over the mineral rights to their nearly 178 acres three years ago for $888.45 and the state-minimum 12.5-percent royalties on the production.

“Everybody made money except us,” Neil Barto said. “Hell yes, it irritates me. … Every time I see somebody from Chief, I tell them I’m not happy about it.”

That’s the sort of cautionary tale the Joint Urban Studies Center is hoping to keep to a minimum in the area by hosting the Marcellus Shale Symposium on Nov. 19 at the Woodlands Inn & Resort in Plains Township. Cost is $30. The symposium will feature experts from the Fort Worth area, which witnessed during the past two decades a historical revolution as the oil and gas industry figured out how to tap gas stores under urban centers.

“The energy companies are used to operating out in rural areas where there’s nothing to bother but some cows and horses and whatnot,” said Will Brackett, the managing editor of the weekly Powell Barnett Shale Newsletter. With people came environmental concerns, landowners organizing to leverage better offers and opposition from those left out of the Barnett Shale windfall.

John Baen, a real estate professor at the University of North Texas, said he’s in a unique position to comment on the Marcellus because he used to fish in the Susquehanna River growing up as a boy, but also watched 9,000 wells be drilled in five Texas counties within seven years. “We had a lot of people who said, ‘Not in my back yard,’ then we had a lot of people who said, ‘Well maybe,’ and people who said, ‘Drill every square foot,’” he said.

Brackett noted that people who hadn’t finished high school were landing $50,000-per-year jobs, making it difficult for other industries to keep workers. As the companies struck more and more hydrocarbon gold, they offered leases to ever more landowners, who began organizing and using the Internet to publicize offers. Bidding wars erupted, with offers at $25,000 per acre and 25-percent royalties on production. “It got to be, I’d have to say, surreal around here,” he said. “Last year, if you went to a party, everyone was talking about the Barnett Shale.”

One of the most important steps to expanding exploitation of the shale is placating objectors, Baen said.

“I have a theory that everyone should be a stakeholder, and everybody should win,” he said. “It might take some pretty big changes in some of your laws up there to have everybody benefit.”

He noted that Texas has no state income tax, but that every mineral-rights owner pays a severance tax that has left the state with an $11-billion overabundance.

Both Brackett and Baen agree Pennsylvania and its citizens stand to benefit extensively from the advances made in Fort Worth in recent years, but only if the state refocuses its mineral-rights policies from coal to gas and oil.

“I’m calling it the Jewel of the Northeast,” Baen said, but “will it be allowed to be developed? And it may not.”

If the state legislature doesn’t act quickly, he predicted the economic benefit could be delayed up to five years.

Copyright: Times Leader