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Dan Hust | Democrat

WITH THE CONCERN over gas companies moving into local areas in search of mining lands, residents are preparing to take an active, more informed approach.

Alliance forms to deal with gas companies

By Dan Hust
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, PA — February 12, 2008 — Any question that gas mining and exploration companies might not be serious evaporated last week for the more than 60 people who trekked west for a tour of gas mining facilities.
Farmers Jim Greenwood and Dennis LaRue of Susquehanna County, Pa. told members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance that the Cabot and Epsilon energy companies paid between $25 and $50 an acre to lease their fields for natural gas well-drilling.
One year after signing those lease agreements, residents of neighboring Wayne County, Pa. have signed $500/acre leases and are now negotiating $750/acre leases.
“By next month, they’ll start drilling in Creamton,” said Marian Schweighofer, one of the Alliance’s founders and a farmer with husband Ed near Tyler Hill, Pa.
And now those companies are moving into Sullivan County, concentrating on the townships of Cochecton, Delaware and Fremont, where geologists believe large deposits of natural gas lie buried in what is known as Marcellus shale.
That’s why Noel van Swol and Bill Graby have been quietly gathering property owners to present a united front – not against the companies, but to negotiate for the best leases, royalties and deals on everything from pipe rights-of-way to pumping stations.
“The Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association is a sister to the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance,” said van Swol, who rode in the two Avery buses chartered for last week’s daylong tour. “We’ve really gotten going over the last two months.”
Since New York deals with gas mining and distribution operations differently than Pennsylvania, van Swol said it was incumbent for residents on this side of the Delaware River to form their own group.
Sullivan-Delaware already has a membership that spans 13,000 acres, including up into the Town of Hancock in Delaware County. (Current maps show the easternmost extent of the gas-rich shale deposits is northwestern Sullivan County and southwestern Delaware County.)
Attorneys versed in oil and gas laws in New York are being retained, van Swol added, and the group is working to “get some sense of the market value” of their properties.
Sullivan-Delaware has not yet entered into legal agreements with any gas company, but then again, neither has Northern Wayne – yet.
“We’re two to three months behind where the property owners are in Wayne County,” van Swol explained.
As for the environmental concerns, “I think all of us are environmentalists,” he remarked of the membership. “There are no better protectors than the property owners who will be directly affected by this.”
People who own or have an interest in a minimum of five acres are welcome to join, said van Swol, though those with less may soon be included as well.
He’s of the mind that this is not a quickly passing trend.
“They’re comparing the Marcellus shale to the Barnett shale in Texas,” he said, referring to a recently tapped gas reservoir that has been estimated to contain as much as 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. “And the Marcellus shale is at least twice as large as the Barnett shale.
“What does that tell you?” he continued. “This is why people in the area are beginning to refer to the region as ‘Little Texas.’”
For more information on the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, call 887-4728.
See Friday’s issue for details on the operations in Susquehanna County and how that might affect Sullivan County.

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