Boon or Bust? Part VI: When talking to the people, opinions are all across the board

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a seven-part series on natural gas drilling gleaned from a recent staff outing to Pennsylvania. It will continue each Thursday in The Evening Sun.

MONTROSE, Pa. – While its population is only a fraction of that in the City and Town of Norwich, the Borough of Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pa. shares many similarities with our area – especially as it concerns natural gas drilling and the process of high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

The controversial procedure – utilized to release natural gas deposits from deep within tight shale formations – is being blamed for the widely publicized methane contamination of 18 residences in nearby Dimock, which lies approximately six miles south of Montrose.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas have stated that hydraulic fracturing was not at fault for the contaminated water wells, blaming it on other issues which they said were subsequently remedied.

Residents in Montrose – just as in Chenango County – have widely differing opinions on the controversial process. Some are all for natural gas drilling, some completely against it while others still remain undecided. Economically, many seem to view vertical and horizontal drilling as a boon to the area, just as long as it’s done safely and remains well-regulated.

Robert Hayes, Susquehanna County resident and owner of Rusty’s Treasures in Montrose, said his primary concern was the increased truck traffic typically associated with natural gas drilling operations. Financially, however, he said he has benefited, as those involved with the process have often frequented his store while shopping for winter clothing.

“I have no big issues with gas drilling itself,” said Hayes, who added he currently has a gas lease on his property. “You have to take the good with the bad, or the bad with the good, I should say.”

Hayes admitted he is certainly concerned with the environmental issues which have become associated with gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, specifically as it concerns the area’s water supply, but said that, so far, the negative impacts which have brought the small community national attention in the last two or three years seem to be isolated events.

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