Residents fill the Picture Rocks Fire Company for a Community Town Hall meeting
PICTURE ROCKS – Let’s not chase them away, but regulate what they do, was the basic message given by State Representative Garth Everett in reference to the gas energy companies. This was the third of 4 scheduled meetings in the county and the one with the most attendance according to Charlie Hall, district administrator.
An open forum with questions and answers was led by Everett after much discussion first on the new sprinkler system (2009 code) laws for property owners who are building new homes. Everett is not in favor of the extra costs homeowners will have to pay to have sprinklers installed in every room, averaging an additional cost of $15,000. The cost is excessively high vs. the marginal safety aspect of it he further explained. “I don’t think the government should be telling what to do with their houses,” he said, “and how we are going to build them.”
He also spoke in disfavor of the state’s general budget. Everett explained that it has gone up 37% above the rate of inflation which rose 67% over the past 18 years. He is also opposed to tax increases and wants to cut spending to lower the 4 billion deficit.
49 percent of state land is now leased to gas energy companies. Everett believes this resource of natural gas can be developed in a responsible manner and basically feels it is a good resource for Pennsylvania. He stated that when humans are involved, there is always going to be errors made. “My goal is to ensure our environment and streams,” as he explained how he enjoys the recreational use of the Loyalsock Creek. “I think we can do this, develop the resource and still enjoy our outdoor way of life.”
His number one concern is hydrofracking. Pennsylvania highly regulates water and how it is used and disposed. “I am cognizant of our watersheds and roads,” although he is still not convinced we have the regulatory scheme in place. He wants as few drill sites as possible with minimum surface disruption. “We do not have as many drill pads as Tioga County.” Diane Peeling from Montgomery was concerned about fracking water getting into our main water supply and she questioned what the contingency plans are should this happen. “We need to rely on the experts who work for us,” he responded. He is confident that experts who serve under John Hangar, an avowed environmentalist, have regulations in place to protect our environment. “However, no industry is 100% foolproof.”
Landowner, Angela Olson asked about forced pooling. Major pipelines have the right of eminent domain but the smaller lines do not have forced pooling yet, “I want everyone to have a fair and even chance to participate in this development, especially landowners who own 5 acres or more,” he said.
Property owners can negotiate terms with production units. “No one wants to be forced to participate without signing a lease,” he explained to Dawn DiRocco from Montoursville who stated she did not sign a lease and asked if it was a setback for unleased properties. Richard Pauling from Huntersville said nothing is in place to give owners a negotiating right, just a signed lease for subsurface rights.
A Muncy Creek resident asked about metering. “We need policing. There are some sneaky things going on like changing the amount of gas units on royalty checks,” he said. “We do need some sort of mechanism in place to see how these units are disclosed.”
Overall, Everett feels that there is not a big push here as there is in other regions in the country. “We do have the ability to limit the number of permits issued each year,” replied Everett. “It is not like the Wild West. Rampant development is at a leisure pace,” he said.
There will be pipelines built connecting major pipelines, and public meetings will be announced.