Norse’s seven permits could be first in line if state passes regs

ALBANY (AP) – While New York regulators wrap up a four-year environmental impact study of shale-gas drilling that has driven most energy companies to other states, a Norwegian company hopes to be first in line if New York starts issuing permits.

Dozens of permit applications for wells in New York’s part of the lucrative Marcellus Shale were filed in 2008 and 2009 with the Department of Environmental Conservation. But then the DEC said no permits will be issued until the completion of its environmental review of gas production using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Companies stopped applying.

The only exception is Norse Energy, which has submitted seven applications since November. The applications are for wells in central New York within 50 miles of the Pennsylvania border, the towns of Smithville, Coventry and Smyrna in Chenango County, and Sanford in Broome County.

That area is considered among the most gas-rich land in New York’s share of the Marcellus Shale, which lies under southern New York and parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia and is estimated to contain 84 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. That’s enough to supply the nation’s gas-burning electrical plants for 11 years, at current rates of use.

Thousands of gas wells have been drilled in the Marcellus in the last five years, the majority in Pennsylvania, bringing new wealth to economically depressed areas, a bonanza of cheap fuel to the energy-hungry Northeast, and a great deal of political conflict arising from environmental and health concerns.

Norse Energy has hundreds of producing natural gas wells in less-rich sandstone formations in central and western New York, but shale gas is the real prize.

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