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Gas drilling from a realtor’s perspective

The gas drilling proposed for our area will likely see noise levels between 60 to 70 decibels, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As I poured through information about the gas drilling process, I realized how extensive are the ramifications of night drilling, and what an impact all this will have on our wildlife. I became overwhelmed with a sense of panic realizing all the various ways our environment will be disturbed if gas drilling comes to Sullivan County.

After struggling for several decades, our county has finally evolved into one of the most vibrant and eclectic communities within a two-hour drive of Manhattan.

An article appeared last week that reported that a viable economic boom is on the horizon in Sullivan County. Recently, Yahoo cited Port Jervis as number one in a list of 10 of the “coolest places” to live in the United States. The Delaware-Highlands corridor is one of the most spectacular in Northeast New York.

I think all this is partially due to the fact that we’ve been successful in monitoring the growth of commercial and industrial enterprises. As a result of our pristine, unpolluted environment, the Upper Delaware Valley became extremely appealing to the second-home buyer.

These folks have blended into our local communities and as a result have contributed substantially to our economic growth. Because of them, the river valley blossoms with renewed energy.

I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather live, and everyone I know who has a home or property here feels the same. Little did we suspect, however, that those very resources would one day be used to compromise the very reason why we live here.

Geologists have long known that our area had the potential of being a major contributor to the natural gas supply of the United States. With rising fuel costs, major gas companies are actively seeking rights to extract this highly sought-after commodity.

There is no question that gas exploration will have some negative impact on our county. What we need to ask ourselves is, will the sacrifice be worth the monetary rewards?

Landowners should become thoroughly aware of the leasing process and what it does and does not provide, including current amounts of money being offered for those leases.

A property on the market with a value of $8,000 to $10,000 or more per acre is being leased for anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 per acre, with provisions for possible royalties. If they find gas, who is going to buy land that has been ripped and scarred and left with possible toxic residue, and which will not even carry with it title to the mineral rights? The landowner will be left with a property that still carries with it the responsibility of ownership, including increased taxes.

I believe that it is incumbent upon our community leaders to assume more responsibility for enacting mandates to assure that these procedures are handled responsibly. There are thousands of articles on the subject and there are plentiful and extensive sources of information on the Internet. I found one particularly objective study, written in layman’s language, that details the entire process from start to finish. My office will make available this informative CD presented by the Gas & Oil Accountability Project; if you are interested, call 845/557-3800. We need to ask ourselves, when will we ever learn that you don’t get something for nothing? Everything has its price.

(Stephanie Turner is a local realtor in the Upper Delaware River Valley corridor.)