Big week ahead for natural gas concerns

NORWICH – Three large chemical spills at a natural gas drilling site in Pennsylvania over the past two weeks – juxtaposed with enthusiasm for what drillers might find in Otsego County this week, where the first official exploration into New York’s shale is underway – will no doubt color the tone of a meeting between Gov. David Paterson and The Business Council of New York State in Rochester on Wednesday.

The Governor is expected to address the opening dinner meeting of the Council, which, later in the week, will include an update on the Marcellus Shale’s potential for boosting the state’s economy. Natural gas companies, landowners and economic developers are all poised to receive the Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulations for hydrofraking into shale on Wednesday as well.

Local landowner groups are hoping that timing is everything, as the Governor’s meeting will occur just when a natural gas company reaches its target in the Town of Maryland. Gastem USA, a Canadian company, is drilling a vertical well to a depth of 5,000 feet to test the gas potential of the Utica Shale. This first well is one of three vertical wells that were permitted by the New York State authorities prior to the state’s ban on drilling into shale.

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