Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Dan Hust | Democrat

Speaking about their experience in Dimock, PA, at last Thursday’s forum are Craig Sautner and his wife Julie. They brought with them a gallon jug of contaminated water from their well, which they blamed on the hydrofracking process.

Speakers warn of drilling’s negative impact

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — August 24, 2010 — Sullivan County’s third and final forum on gas drilling again featured mostly negative takes on an industry inching closer to the area.
Out of five speakers at Thursday’s gathering in the Monticello High School, four warned that the economic development and community impacts would be either minimal or too overwhelming to the county’s businesses and residents.
Still searching for one good study
Dr. Jannette Barth, an economist and leader of J.M. Barth & Associates in Croton-on-Hudson, has become well-known in the drilling debate for her study-of-the-studies released earlier this year, titled “Unanswered Questions About the Economic Impact of Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: Don’t Jump to Conclusions.”
(The full text of her report is available online at
Noting her efforts are entirely self-funded, Barth told the audience of about 100 that “it’s not so clear natural gas drilling will be the answer” to the region’s economic woes.
Spurred on by her ownership of property in Delaware County, Barth reviewed a variety of studies which viewed drilling’s economic and community impacts in a relatively positive light, detailing what she determined were the flaws of each to the audience Thursday night.
“In reality, the region may be in even more dire straits if we allow drilling,” she said.
To bolster that contention, she stated that since rig workers move from site to site, many of the jobs created by drilling will not be local, and those that are won’t be long-lasting.
She used the Town of Cochecton’s legal wranglings with the Millennium Pipeline company over a damaged road as proof that gas companies won’t necessarily be good neighbors when it comes to repairing streets beaten down by truck traffic.
While large landowners and certain businesses may see a benefit, “single-family homes and small lots will probably decline in value,” she noted.
Barth herself studied 15 counties in upstate New York – 10 where drilling is intensively being performed, five where it’s not – and determined that from 2006-2008, the counties with drilling had worse poverty levels than those without.
“In New York State,” she projected, “the newly rich landowners likely will move to warmer climates in the winter – like Texas and Florida – taking their newfound wealth and spending with them.”
Indeed, with 70 percent of the drilling workforce in Pennsylvania from out of state, Barth argued that places like Texas – home of many drilling companies and related infrastructure – will benefit more than local communities.
Barth advocated for a peer-reviewed, comprehensive study on drilling in New York State before the industry moves in with new wells involving hydraulic fracturing.
She added that even if a film like “Gasland” only focuses on the negatives of the industry, it highlights too many problems to allow drilling to proceed.
“I think we’re really lucky we in New York can wait, sit tight and watch what happens in Pennsylvania over the long-term,” she said.
‘Results will vary’
Second speaker Jeffrey Jacquet, a member of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marcellus Shale Team, brought a sociologist’s perspective to the forum.
After all, he is one with Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources in Ithaca and has conducted research, recommended strategies and consulted on natural gas drilling in both the East and the West.
His take on drilling’s impacts?
“The bottom line: results will vary, and impacts can and will be a mixed bag,” Jacquet said.
He discounted both doomsday scenarios and giddy predictions of financial booms, though he saw more negatives than positives.
Jacquet noted that rising property values due to drilling would benefit landlords and property owners looking to sell land, while renters and those looking to stay on their property would face increased rents and taxes.
And a lot of this would happen in a very short period of time, in the first years of drilling’s arrival.
“That’s the challenge,” he said. “... You need to accommodate all this growth at the beginning.”
That growth includes new businesses, new people, new money, new land uses, all of which can help a community but also cause new tensions, new crime, new traffic.
Jacquet contended that conventional gas drilling is not an accurate comparison to drilling involving hydraulic fracturing.
“It’s high school football compared to the NFL,” he told the audience. “Same rules, same game, but on a completely different scale.”
As for the impacts on tourism and agriculture – the top industries in Sullivan County – he only was willing to say there will be stress when drilling supplants them as the “top dog.”
“I don’t think anyone really knows what the impacts are going to be” on farming and tourism, he remarked.
“There’s also the scenario where he [a farmer] gets a royalty [from drilling] and stops farming altogether,” Jacquet mused.
He warned of social disruption, of the need for more emergency workers and facilities, of heavy truck traffic.
On the other hand, he acknowledged starting salaries will likely jump (i.e., a McDonald’s in northern Pennsylvania now starts unskilled workers at $15 an hour), and he disagreed with Barth’s contention that banks may become reluctant to do mortgages in gas-leased areas.
Regardless, he urged listeners to ensure their communities are prepared not just for the boom but the bust portion of the business cycle.
Part 2 on Friday: The legacy of Dimock, PA, and positive experiences in Bradford County, PA.

top of page  |  home  |  archives