Chenango County included in Cuomo’s suggested permitting list

NORWICH – It’s still a big “IF?” whether the state’s environmental regulators will give the go-ahead, but the Cuomo administration is pushing a plan that would permit hydraulic fracturing in the deepest part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, which includes Chenango County.

According to an article in The New York Times yesterday, development permits would initially be issued in certain Southern Tier counties, including Broome and Chenango, where the formation is the most promising.

Should the Department of Environmental Conservation complete and approve its revised permitting regulations, and that’s a big if, said Natural Gas consultant Steven Palmatier this morning, Chenango County should be in good shape to move forward.

“The county is fortunate that many of its public officials, including emergency management personnel and planners, have done their due diligence in preparation for the industry. Chenango County should be able to manage this with a minimum of disruption to its citizens.”

Norse Energy Corp., the company with leases and drilling activity already in Chenango County and the Southern Tier, wrote to its shareholders this morning that it is expecting issuance this summer of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement from the DEC.

The Times’ story indicated that certain areas of the state would initially be unavailable for development either due to proximity to fresh water aquifers, other setback restrictions or local bans on drilling. Norse estimates that only a small portion of its acreage position would be impacted by such restrictions.

“In the areas of the state where we have traditionally explored for oil and gas, the local support has been substantial,” said Norse CEO Mark Dice. “It is encouraging that the Governor’s office appears poised to now advance the SGEIS, allowing for the safe and environmentally sound development of this valuable natural resource.”

Norse Energy now owns or leases approximately 130,000 net acres in New York State, of which 97,000 net acres lies in the Marcellus and Utica natural gas fairways in Central New York.

“While the article focuses on the Marcellus Shale, Norse estimates that the Utica Shale contains even larger resource potential in these areas of New York State,” Dice stated.

Chenango County Planner Rena Doing commented this morning, “It looks to me like they are kind of feeling good about it (permitting).”

Central New York Landowners Coalition President Brian Conover said last week that he had no fear about water contamination from fracking getting between water aquifers and shale layers.

“We as a coalition have taken our time to not lease until we have studied all of the ramifications of drilling. We trust the scientists at the DEC. If their people say this can be done, then it’s got to be OK. If Martens (DEC chief) and President Obama think this can be done, then it must be. Any of those people would be the first to yank the plug on this and turn on the windmills and the solar plugs and get that going. “

Numerous environmental, health, and community groups are seeking a statewide ban on fracking, which frees gas from shale by injecting a well with millions of gallons of chemically treated water at immense pressure. Opponents of drilling and fracking in the vast Marcellus Shale formation underlying parts of New York, Pennsylvania and other states cite risks of water and air pollution.

“It’s absolutely unconscionable that the governor would even think about exposing some New Yorkers to fracking hazards while protecting others,” said Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting. “There should be no second-class citizens when it comes to shale gas fracking in New York.”

New Yorkers Against Fracking is holding rallies on Thursday in response to reports that Gov. Cuomo is considering a plan to allow shale gas development in Southern Tier communities that pass resolutions in favor of it.

Rallies are planned in Rockville Center on Long Island, Brooklyn, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany.

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, which is seeking to lease land for drilling, has persuaded several dozen towns to pass resolutions supporting drilling. Many more towns have passed bans or moratoriums on drilling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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