Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gas Drilling Seminar

I attended the natural gas seminar last night put on by the Independent Oil and Gas Association.. It was a pretty packed house, standing room only, and the first part of the night was somewhat informative. However the q and a portion turned into a bit of a donny brook, with some pretty off the wall questions and accusations.

It really didn’t answer too many of the questions people have had in this county since this whole thing came up. We were assured that the D.E.C. will be closely regulating all drilling activity, that there has been no instances of contaminated drinking water anywhere in New York State, since the first well was drilled years ago. It sort of reminded me of Alien Invasion. “We come in Peace.” There were vague promises of road repair, and examples where they had built bridges in the past. They also made references to other areas of New York, where wells were present in the back yards of schools, and in wineries.

They explained the fracturing process, which is 99.5 percent water and sand, the other .5 percent being a lubricant, and some sort of soap. All very benign sounding. There were graphs of comparative water usage. (Apparently golf courses use much more water then gas drilling.) And promises of rigs being silenced at dusk.

However any specifics, and they became vague. I paraphrased a few below.
What happens to the contaminated water? “Well, there are a few possibilities, one of which is setting up a treatment plant, another is re-using the water in a different well.” (Again promises of D.E.C. involvement.)

How many wells will be drilled? “Well right now there are 650 rigs in the entire U.S. so the reports of thousands of wells is untrue. It will probably start off with a few, and if they are successful, more over time.”

How can you be sure that there will be no drinking water contamination? “In 2004 the EPA after looking at 452,000 wells in the U.S. concluded not a single case of water contamination from gas drilling.”

One of the most interesting spins was the promise of local tax revenue, and how the companies were going to pay these taxes directly to local municipalities. However when it was explained more, it is actually an ad valorem tax--a real property tax, which is directly linked to the amount of gas pumped from a well. In essence a property’s assessment will rise due to the fact it is more valuable because of natural gas. However they made it sound as if the gas companies would be paying the tax, when actually it will come from the land owners.

Without question, since it was put on by the Gas Association it was a bit slanted, and some was out right propaganda. However they are coming, its just a matter of when. I guess we can only hope our state and local officials police them enough to keep us safe. I do have a gut feeling that this will actually be good for the county once it is up and running. I attached some links below.

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