NORWICH – Future drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus strata got a little easier for gas companies yesterday, as Governor David Paterson signed legislation that broadens well spacing regulations to permit horizontal drilling.
Previous state environmental conservation law required companies to follow a lengthy application process when applying for horizontal drill permits. Spacing units and set back requirements existed for vertical drilling only.
Horizontal drilling is necessary to tap into what some experts predict is enough natural gas in the Marcellus strata to singly fuel the nation’s needs for more than two years. Natural gas companies have swooped in on landowners in the Southern Tier and Catskills with lucrative lease offers up to $2,500 or more an acre plus royalties.
The new law came with assurances from the governor that the Department of Environmental Conservation would address the public’s environmental concerns. Opponents to the bill had hoped to slow down the drilling process in order to protect water supplies from overuse and possible contamination by chemicals used to help hydrofrac the shale. Each horizontal well requires million of gallons of water and produces the same amount of waste water.