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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Potter Commissioners To Initiate Natural Gas Task Force

County Preparing For Natural Gas Rush

shalePotter County continues to prepare for what is expected to be a rush on natural gas resources locked deep in the ground within Marcellus shale formations. Geologists confirm the presence of gas deposits in broad sections of the county. Many property owners have already signed leases with exploration and/or production companies. Once gas prices rise and economic conditions dictate, experts say, the rush will begin and continue for upwards of two decades.

Representatives from Potter and neighboring Tioga and Clinton counties are represented on the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Natural Gas Task Force, which has been meeting since mid-2008 to develop strategies and policy recommendation. Committee members will convene next month in State College for a two-day workshop that will also include natural gas industry representatives, government regulatory agencies and township officials.

The Potter County Commissioners are developing a work plan for a county-based Natural Gas Task Force, patterned after a similar organization that was assembled in Lycoming County. Invitations will soon be extended to prospective members who are willing to volunteer their time. Anyone interested in participating is asked to call the Commissioners Office at 274-8290.

In Potter County, there were 171 drilling permits issued by the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2008, compared to just 139 issued for the eight-year span of 2000-07. Officials point out that the statistics don’t yet reflect any appreciable production of natural gas locked in the Marcellus shale formation. Terry Engelder, a geoscientist at Penn State, predicts the boom will come as gas prices rise, the economy improves, and a pipeline-based distribution and storage network is developed.

Oil and gas development is already having a positive economic impact through the payment of leases and royalties, and greater use of motel rooms, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses. At the same time, environmental groups and outdoors organizations have raised red flags over the potential impact on water resources.

Reaching the Marcellus requires drilling 5,000 or more feet underground. Millions of gallons of water are required per well to fracture (or “frac”) the shale and allow the gas to flow. Last week, DEP and the natural gas drilling industry announced a partnership to explore innovative methods to treat wastewater generated from oil and gas well drilling.

The partnership’s goal is to limit surface water discharges from wastewater treatment plants by encouraging the reuse of frac water, locating geologic formations capable of safe deep underground wastewater disposal, and evaluating new and emerging treatment technologies. Potter County Today

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