Landowners join together to prepare for hydrofracking – Utica, NY – The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York

Landowners join together to prepare for hydrofracking – Utica, NY – The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York.

Landowners join together to prepare for hydrofracking

At issue: Properties in Oneida and Madison counties

Posted Apr 21, 2011 @ 06:41 PM
Last update Apr 21, 2011 @ 10:51 PM
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Landowners representing more than 10,000 acres in Oneida and Madison counties have formed a partnership with a goal of allowing hydraulic fracturing to safely occur on their property.

Their land includes sections of Oneida County south of Route 5 — property in municipalities such as New Hartford, Paris, Marshall, Sangerfield, Vernon, Vernon Center and Augusta, said Brymer Humphreys, the administrator of the group.

Humphreys, a New Hartford farmer and town Planning Board member, said the landowners in the partnership are in favor of hydraulic fracturing, but they want to contract with a natural gas company that will work with them to address issues such as whether well water would be impacted.

“We believe it’s something that’s going to happen in New York, and we want to have the best control of how it’s done as we can,” Humphreys said of hydrofracking. “We’re concerned about being able to get a reliable company – have some inspections of their proceedings and have them provide outlines as far as what they have to do to protect us as landowners and our neighbors.”

Opponents of hydrofracking, however, say there is no way to guarantee it can be done safely. Issues have been raised with potential effects such as decreased property values, polluted drinking water and damaged roads from the heavy traffic involved with the drilling.

A statewide moratorium on hydrofracking is in place until at least July 1, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation review process will take longer than that to complete, DEC spokesman Michael Bopp said. No hydrofracking permits will be issued in the state until the DEC study process is done, he said.

High-volume, horizontal hydrofracking involves mixing chemicals with millions of gallons of water and pumping the mixture into wells to create fractures in rock formations to allow natural gas to be harvested.

Southern Oneida County is located above part of the Marcellus Shale, a large rock formation under the surface of the earth that has been targeted for hydrofracking in New York and other states such as Pennsylvania.

The part of the county south of Route 5 also is above the Utica Shale, which has the potential for natural gas but has not been tested for hydrofracking, said Jeff Miller, an educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County.

The partnership

The landowners’ group, which is called the Pine Energy Madison and Oneida Partnership, has contracted with a company called Pine Energy Management, which will represent the landowners in negotiations with natural gas drilling companies, Humphreys said.

Most people in the partnership have wells, so they’re concerned too about whether there would be effects on water and the environment, Humphreys said. That’s part of the reason for forming the group, he said.

No natural gas companies have directly approached residents in Oneida County about leases, but landowners – such as those who have signed on with Pine Energy Management – have been talking with go-between people who would help them with signing a lease, Miller said.

By forming a larger group of landowners in Oneida and Madison counties, the partnership will have greater negotiating power with natural gas companies, said Mark Wagner, the co-owner of Pine Energy Management.

The company is based in Colorado and is planning on opening an office in the Oneida-Vernon area, said Wagner, who is a petroleum engineer with 31 years of experience in the industry.

The goal is to allow the industry to move into the area for drilling, but to do so in a way that landowners are comfortable with, Wagner said. The company will help in negotiations, develop drilling plans, make sure concerns such as water and road-use are addressed and provide oversight of the drilling, he said.

“We work at the pleasure of the landowners – not the energy companies,” Wagner said.

Carleton Corey, owner of The Mum Farm on Red Hill Road in New Hartford, has concerns about hydrofracking — including whether water would be impacted.

He’s glad the landowners are working together because if they’re going to allow the practice, they should at least make sure it’s done right, he said.

So much contradictory information exists that he thinks landowners should get their water tested now, so they can measure if there are changes if drilling begins, he said.

“I don’t quite know what to believe,” he said.

Preparing and learning

The town of New Hartford has been looking into the issue of hydrofracking and is in the process of developing legislation for ordinances to regulate the practice, town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said.

If the town decides to allow hydrofracking, very strict rules would have to be put in place, he said. Tyksinski would consider instituting a town moratorium on hydrofracking until the issue is further reviewed, he said.

Tyksinski isn’t yet sure whether he is for or against hydrofracking, but he does have concerns about whether the drilling would affect water supplies and the potential for the drills to be abandoned if the practice becomes no longer profitable, he said. Those issues will be considered as the town develops its ordinances, he said.

“We don’t want polluted water up here in the town of New Hartford,” he said. “I don’t think any community does.”

When the state moratorium ends, the focus likely will be on parts of the state south of Oneida County because there are more expansive areas located above the Marcellus Shale, said Miller, of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“I’m not sure we’re going to be a hotbed for activity, which is a good thing,” Miller said, adding that the county can watch what happens in other locations first. “So that we can learn from them.”

2 Responses to Landowners join together to prepare for hydrofracking – Utica, NY – The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    I think that this group of landowners is misinformed and has an unrealistic outlook that they will control anything regarding land leases for Hydrofracking . Perhaps they should watch the documentary film “Gasland,” by Josh Fox and also do some independent research in states where hydrofracking has already occurred. It is a nightmare and has contaminated the air, land and water! It has further killed and created serious health issues in humans,wildlife, livestock, plants etc. I understand that many farmers and landowners have fallen on hard times and feel this is a way to generate revenue but that outlook is short-sighted with long term implications. Look at the wind turbine debacle. These LLC’s will roll over these farmers like yesterdays manure. If they have problems the landowners will not have the resources or legal expertise to battle. Once you allow these industrial polluters to come in you will not be able to get them out. For this group to think they will have negotiating power in any real and meaningful way is a fantasy! All of you people had better do your homework and get on board to prevent hydrofracking. The toxic chemicals used in the process are so harmful it is irresponsible to promote this where there is any life!

  2. Charlie says:

    Is the above the only comment on this issue? Sad! If they allow hydrofracking in New York state you may as well kiss this beautiful serene land goodbye.It is unfortunate that most New Yorkers cannot get beyond their entertainment centers and/or selfish concerns.If more of us were futuristic and had concerns about future generations there’d be lots of hell-raising going on over this issue. I am ashamed to say i am a member of this society. Governor Cuomo should be ashamed that he is even considering this polluting technique in New York.

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