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Natural gas drilling rules will change

SCHUYLER COUNTY—Schuyler County landowners are preparing for a potential increase in natural gas exploration after new rules for drilling in the Marcellus Shale are announced by state environmental officials.
When those rules will be announced, however, remains unclear.
“It’s taking longer than expected,” said Yancey Roy, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “It’s long and we’re trying to be quite detailed.”
The state last year imposed a moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation to allow the environmental agency to study the potential impact and write new regulations.
That moratorium caused several gas exploration companies to move their drilling operations into northern Pennsylvania, said Bill Lock, chairman of the steering committee of the Schuyler County Landowners Coalition.
“This is kind of beneficial for the (Schuyler) landowners,” Lock said. “It gives us time to get our action plan in order and become aware of what the effects of major drilling could be in the area.”
The coalition has signed up the owners of more than 6,000 acres of land in Schuyler County. It has hired Empire Energy Consultants of Berkshire to negotiate with gas drillers on behalf of all those landowners.
“We’re interested in protecting the resources and getting the best value for the resources we own as landowners,” Lock said.
Evidence from drilling in Pennsylvania indicates the Marcellus Shale holds two to eight times as much natural gas as previously expected, Lock said. “It also has very few contaminants, which makes it among the purest natural gas in the country,” he said.
That’s encouraging to members of the landowners’ coalition, Lock said.
“We believe we have a very valuable resource underneath us, especially in the southern portion of the county,” he said.
Lock said the organization is completing maps of the land owned by its members and trying to develop large contiguous areas in which drilling companies may be interested.
“We think some of the bigger companies will probably have interest in our region once the rulemaking takes place,” Lock said.
Lock estimated that if the new rules are announced by the end of the summer, gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale in Schuyler County could resume by the third or fourth quarter of this year.
He said the landowners will be represented in leasing negotiations by Nicole Gwardyak, president and leasing specialist at Empire Energy Consultants, and Mary Hickey, Empire’s vice president for marketing and coalition management.
Gwardyak did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Marcellus Shale is a relatively shallow geological formation in which natural gas is trapped in layers of shale that must be broken up to release the gas.
Lock said the Schuyler coalition is working with similar groups in Steuben, Chemung and other counties in an effort to bolster its negotiating position.
“We want to work as a large, overall coalition,” he said.
He said the Schuyler group is organizing a series of educational meetings and seminars with the help of Schuyler County Farm Bureau and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Lock said how quickly exploration resumes in the Marcellus Shale in Schuyler County depends in part on the economy.
“The economic downturn has hurt the investment part of the drilling industry,” he said. “The economic situation will determine the equipment available and the companies willing to come in.”
Among the exploration companies he expects to have interest in Schuyler County are Fortuna Energy and Chesapeake Energy, both of which have leased property in the county.
More information on the landowners’ group is available at

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