NORWICH -– Chenango County still isn’t in the natural gas business.
While all eyes were focusing south of the county line this week at a $16 million offer to lease land owned by Broome County for natural gas drilling rights, yet a third opportunity for Chenango County to negotiate royalty payouts on Bullthistle land is coming and going.
Section 215 of County Law prohibits non-chartered counties, those without an executive form of government, like Chenango’s, from entering into leases that extend for more than five years. Because the lifespan of most gas wells ranges between 30 and 40 years, the county is only eligible to be what’s called ‘a non-participating owner’ and receive the state-set standard of 12.5 percent of production value.
Legislation that would amend Section 215 and allow the county to extend leases out longer is currently sponsored in both the New York State Senate and Assembly. The bills have not been passed yet, however.
Senator Thomas Libous, R-Bighamton, said Tuesday that the proposals are being held up because opponents of hydraulic fracturing view them as pro-drilling measures.
“They see it as giving people who want to drill a leg up,” he said.
The senator, speaking from his Albany office, said the proposed legislation is also incorrectly interpreted as being applicable to every non-chartered county in the state, not just Chenango County. There are 35 other non-chartered counties.
Unfortunately, representatives, particulary those from downstate, according to Libous, don’t realize that the only game in town here is natural gas exploration into sandstone formations, such as the Herkimer and Oneida. For almost two years now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been reviewing public comments and redrafting the environmental quality review regulations for the water-intensive drilling technique needed to extract natural gas from shale formations, such as the Marcellus.