Carlisle hosts talk by Friends of Natural Gas


By Patsy Nicosia

It's unlikely it will ever be profitable enough to drill for natural gas in Carlisle and by extension, the rest of Schoharie County.
That's what two experts from the Friends of Natural Gas, an industry group that promotes the development of natural gas, told about 50 people there Wednesday.
Though neighbor Sharon Springs has taken the lead in regulating fracking through local laws and its Comprehensive Plan, Carlisle has also hosted talks by Schoharie Valley Watch and attorney Joe Heath on understanding and getting out of gas leases.
Wednesday's talk by Talisman Energy, Canada, representative Jack Showers of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, and hydrogeologist Tom Johnson of Alpha Geoscience of Clifton Park, was a chance to hear from the other side, said Supervisor Larry Bradt.
Geologically, Carlisle is at the extreme edge of New York's shale formations, Mr. Johnson said.
"In Carlisle, you're not going to see any drilling in Marcellus [layer of shale] at all," he said.
"Utica [shale]? It's not impossible, but the odds are that drilling would start deeper in the Southern Tier."
That assurance prompted Mr. Bradt and others to ask why so much land has been leased by gas companies in Carlisle and Sharon.
"We're a victim of our own success," answered Mr. Showers, suggesting that hydrofracking successes in Pennsylvania and New York's Southern Tier prompted some gas companies to look north.
"But I will not be surprised if those leases are allowed to expire," he said, something that's already happened to at least two leaseholders in Sharon.
That's because times are tough in the natural gas industry.
With the economy in a downslide, the price of natural gas is at a 10-year low, Mr. Showers said.
"We've laid off people...lost spending is down."
Looking ahead, he said, the industry is concerned about the cost of complying with the new fracking regulations DEC is putting together; he's heard estimates as high as $200,000 a well.
They're also keeping an eye on taxes.
"Right now, I have a $20 million tax bill for wells drilled in the last four years," Mr. Showers said.
Talisman Energy drilled its first well in Pennsylvania in 2008, Mr. Showers said, concentrating its efforts in Bradford County, where it has 125 horizontal wells and three compressor stations and has spent $21 million in road upgrades and repairs.
Talisman also has 25 wells and one compressor station in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, where it spent $3 million on roads, as well as wells in Susquehanna County.
Hydrofracking can be done responsibly, Mr. Showers said; Talisman has a "Good Neighbor" hotline for complaints, donates to the communities it works in, and weights bids 10 percent in favor of local contractors and suppliers.
In addition to fracking's impact on roads, opponents worry about the large volume of water it requires.
Mr. Johnson conceded that but added, "What people don't grasp is how much water is out there."
DEC has estimated that even a peak fracking activity, with 2,462 wells, there would only be a .24 percent increase in water usage, he said.
Additionally, DEC already has controls in place, Mr. Johnson said, with regard to withdrawal and transport of water.
Pennsylvania doesn't have good fracking regulations, he said, which is why there have been problems there.
Methane in well water in Dimmock, Pennsylvania was caused by problems in well casings-again better regulated here, he said-not fracking.
That, however, prompted some in the audience to point out there would have been no need for casing if there had been no fracking.
Sitll, Mr. Johnson said, "You're not going to have these problems in New York. That's because there are regulations in place and new regulations being drawn up.
"As a society we have to make some choices about where we get our energy from," he added.
Questions from the audience focused on treating and disposing of "backflow" or wastewater as well as radiation and chemicals in backflow.
Linda Cross, a member of the Carlise Planning Board, said she objects to claims that increased drilling will ease the country's dependence on foreign opil.
"We aren't there yet," she said. "That's a pie in the sky approach."
Mr. Johnson acknowledged that most of the gas produced here is being shipped overseas.
"That's because we don't have the facilities and infrastructure," he said; both coal-fired power plants and cars need to start converting.
"That's why supply is down. There's not enough demand."