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Forum outlines economic ups, downs from drilling

WATKINS GLEN—Two professors spoke about the economic impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling on a region, during a March 30 forum held at the Harbor Hotel.
There were 211 people in the audience.  The event was organized by the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), Schuyler County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce.  Dr. Tim Kelsey, professor of agriculture economics and state program leader of economic and community development at Penn State University, and Dr. Susan Christopherson, professor in the department of city and regional planning at Cornell University and economic geographer, were the guest speakers.
Rebekah LaMoreaux, chamber president, said the forum was planned to provide information on economic development due to Marcellus Shale drilling.  Both Christopherson and Kelsey talked about the boom and bust local economies experience when drilling comes to an area.
Kelsey said governments and businesses will experience an increase in population and demand during the production phase of drilling.  However, he said that will all shrink after drilling is completed.  During the reclamation phase, when the drilling companies close up production, Kelsey said local economies will experience a bust because most workers will leave.
Kelsey added officials need to prepare for what happens during and after the bust.  Local governments will have to change for an increase in people who are just temporary.  For example, he said the drilling will bring in workers and more housing will be built.   When the workers leave, there will no longer be a need for the extra housing.
Christopherson said governments need to ask: what sort of population growth, income growth, and economic diversity will drilling cause?  She suggested the drilling companies go slow when it comes to drilling in New York.
Christopherson also said officials should plan across governments to minimize negative impacts.  She added strong local leadership, entrepreneurial support systems, and actively monitoring and responding to issues can all help the local community during drilling.
Both speakers said drilling can lead to negative and positive impacts.  Christopherson said there have been negative outcomes from drilling in rural areas because there are:
• An increased cost of doing business.
• Poor government planning.
• Labor and housing costs increase.
• Fewer jobs and income inequality after the boom.
She added other studies on drilling’s impact are restrictive in their assumptions.  Christopherson said some studies only provide a “snapshot” rather than an overview.  She explained the best way to review drilling is to look on a regional scope.
“My perspective is we are in an era with a large amount of uncertainty,” said Kelsey.  He added there is anecdotal information both for and against drilling.


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