The Impact Of Natural Gas Industry Expected To Soar In Area
HUGHESVILLE – Almost three hundred people attended an information session at the Hughesville Fire Hall last Thursday night to hear a panel of speakers discuss the outcomes of the much talked about gas exploration industry in our immediate area.
The event was hosted by Muncy Bank and Trust and facilitated by president and CEO, Dan Brenninger.
The presentation was led by Tom Murphy from the Penn State Cooperative Extension who assured everyone there that the process was being well monitored and researched by several key organizations such as the Department of Environmental Protection, DCNR, and Lycoming County. Both positive and negative implications are being addressed said Murphy.
“So far over 1200 permits have been issued in the state,” said Murphy. “It is estimated to be over a one hundred year supply of natural gas in this region according to university geologists,” he said. Other issues that will have a grave impact are road use agreements and water access. Murphy said that new technology to extract the gas is more economically favorable because multiple paths can be drilled. Thus the number of drilling rigs have doubled in the last year and gas storage is at record levels in the southwestern part of the state. Pennsylvania stores one third of the country’s supply of natural gas. Murphy expects the price of natural gas to lower considerably in the near future.
Other guest speakers were Senator Eugene Yaw and State Representative Garth Everett who both announced that we are in the heart of the Marcellus Shale Development. “It is a new industry and we are learning,” they said. Education is important.. Legislation is important. Yaw serves on the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee and Everett serves on the Emergency Preparedness Committee for the state. Yaw introduced Bill 298 “Clean and Green” which allows taxation only on acreage being drilled, not entire acreage owned, he said. He said he did not vote for passage of Bill 143 which allows state lease money to go to general funds. He feels the money should be put back in local funds. Senate Bill 297 did pass unanimously in the House and this bill reduces confidentiality and reporting periods for landowners with DEP from five years to six months. Both legislators were happy to announce that the Senate voted down a severance tax on generated funds.
Everett believes that revenue can be produced from forest land, not imposing severance taxes. “This is a one time opportunity for our area and we need to do it right,” he said. He assured the audience that de-regulations are in place to insure the quality of our environment. “We are proud of our rural area and we don’t want anything to happen to it,” he added. “We are an energy leader here.” He suggested that comprehensive studies of tax structures and natural resources of other gas producers take place before imposing any kind of taxes on the industry in our area.
Career opportunities were also addressed. It was stated by several panel members that our workforce is inexperienced to operate the machinery and many of the companies are using their own laborers. However, training programs and certification programs are being established through the state for our local workforce. There will be opportunities available for machine operators, transportation drivers, laborers for the pipelines, water treatment and gas processing plants. Most of the jobs will be in the drilling and development phase of the process. For every well drilled, 400 people are involved and 150 different occupations are associated with it according to panel members.
By 2013 many local employees will be working here. Chief Oil a Texas based company and one of the largest lease holders, announced that East Lycoming is a “hot spot”. Three rigs are under contract with them and a fourth one is expected to open this month. Sixty percent of employees hired here are from Williamsport according to Jason De Wolfe, Environmental Affairs Manager. They have 15 horizontal wells on the drilling schedule in Penn Township for the next 9 to 12 months.
Some local residents came to find out if the profits will stay in the local area. Others wanted to know where the money from leasing state land will go. “Is it coming back to the localities where the gas is found,” asks Patti Watkins from Picture Rocks. Patti and her husband, Allan, are currently leasing with a gas company and they would like to know where the other places are in the area that are being drilled. “We would like the proceeds to stay in the local area,” she added.
Steve and Debra Temple from Lairdsville came to get some more information. “One of the wells is near our property,” said Debra, “and we want to know where and when they are going to be drilling. I want to see a map of where they all are.”
The consensus was to keep the industry here, do more education and outreach and give everyone an opportunity to stay here. “It is an evolutionary process and communication is vital,” stated Jim Canon from Range Resources.