The Great Chenango County 'Gas Rush'

California had its gold rush, Colorado its silver rush, and Texas and Oklahoma their oil rush. Now it's New York's turn, via the natural gas rush. And, according to all I've read, the atmosphere surrounding all these past events created similar craziness. Fiction and rumors far outweighed facts, and only a pittance of the people that were involved financially benefited from them. In other words, it's the same old same old with our local gas rush.

Geologists have known for decades about the untapped gas reserves in the Trenton/Black River section of the Finger Lakes, first tapped in 1982, and now the massive Marcellus black shale deposits that encompass much of western and central New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. But until several years ago, it was not fiscally or physically effective for gas companies to drill and tap into the source, which may require drilling to 5,000 feet or more vertically. Once the technology allowed effective discovery and recovery of the gas, the rush was on.

With the Marcellus reserve. the gas is located within the shale's natural fractures, which means removing it requires a system which forces the gas out of the fractures and allows it to be pumped to the surface and harvested. Should a well be drilled over a "honey hole" that contains an abundance of fractures and also imbedded gas, recovery is relatively easy. But additional gas can be recovered over a wider area by horizontal drilling near the bottom of the well and then forcing liquid, primarily large amounts of water, down the shaft under high pressure, which creates further fractures and opens more shale to gas recovery.

It's no secret that our area is economically depressed, so the opportunity to "get in" on the natural gas bandwagon has spread like wild fire. After all, what does Chenango County have an abundance of? Land. So what's the harm in a gas drilling site or operating well here and there throughout our vast land holdings, both private and public? Done correctly, it probably doesn't represent any threat, but depending on the language contained in a signed lease agreement between the gas drilling company and the landowner, what occurs may vary greatly from site to site. Will the land be restored to as near normalcy as it was prior? Where will the massive amounts of water needed come from, and what will be the post-drilling disposal of it? Are the residuals, both solid and liquid, removed during the drilling operation be tested for toxins or radioactive particles that may be contained in those lower layers? How are they disposed of and where?

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