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December 06, 2016
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Marcellus property owners find towns’ support

Noel van Swol

The unexpected adoption of pro-natural gas resolutions by the towns of Delaware and Fremont struck Sullivan County’s liberal political establishment like a thunderbolt. This was a major political victory for local property owners.

For the last two months scores of desperate environmental radicals have attended monthly meetings in both towns trying without success to get those courageous town board members to back down and rescind their resolutions.

Why all the hysteria? Governor Cuomo has signaled that individual towns may be given the right to authorize or reject gas drilling. What is at stake are millions of dollars of bonus money for individual property owners, huge tax revenues for local towns, thousands of new high-paying jobs for unemployed local residents and the greatest economic boom Sullivan County has ever seen.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “approximately 60” New York towns actually sitting on the Marcellus shale have adopted pro-gas resolutions. This late-breaking development counters the 100 towns, most of which have no Marcellus shale gas reserves, that have adopted “feel-good” anti-fracking bans or moratoriums. Even though the media is not adequately covering the adoption of the pro-gas resolutions, the public should be aware that the number continues to rise every month.

Many people do not realize that not only did Delaware and Fremont adopt such resolutions, but so did the Delaware County town of Hancock, which borders Fremont. Together these three contiguous towns have a combined area of 248 square miles. This is an enormous exploration zone for oil and gas companies interested in the Marcellus shale.

Additionally, the local towns of Windsor, Sanford, Deposit. Kirkwood, Conklin and the Town of Binghamton (not the City of Binghamton) have also adopted pro-gas drilling resolutions. As you can see, the town boards of Delaware, Fremont and Hancock do not stand alone on this issue.

It means that a solid 65-mile block of towns stretching along the New York-Pennsylvania border have signaled to the governor that they support safe and responsible gas drilling.

This development is also of enormous significance to the major oil and gas exploration and development companies interested in our region. Local property owners and town boards who want gas drilling should take heart, we are closer to winning than ever.

In fact, reliable sources tell us that a huge commercial gas discovery was recently drilled three miles across the Pennsylvania border from Kirkwood. Property owners within that drilling unit having 100 acres and a 12.5% royalty may be looking at $500,000 a year in potential payments. Smaller landowners could be getting $5,000 per acre annually. This moves the gas frontier to approximately 45 miles from Sullivan County and it will get even closer as time goes on.

Obviously, the stakes are high, but good business sense of the type demonstrated by these local town boards will eventually prevail.

[Noel van Swol is the president of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, an association of landowners who favor the development of natural gas resources and represent approximately 70,000 acres.]