(Madison, NY – May 30, 2012) In coordination with Citizens for Safe Energy of Madison County, The Madison County Natural Gas Development Working Group held a public information session on Wednesday evening to reveal findings of the Working Group’s research in an interactive forum with local residents.
Highlights of the event included a renewed warning to residents by Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John M. Becker to obtain their own legal advocates before entering into land resource rights contracts, an outline of the natural gas resources in Madison County from the Working Group’s Chairman Supervisor Roger Bradstreet, and an emphasis on the need to balance this great economic resource for property owners while protecting the rich environmental resources of the County, health of residents, and local infrastructure.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker stated, “Natural gas can be a positive economic resource for our county and our citizens. I urge property owners to listen to the experiences of others shared here today. Whether land owners are exploring natural gas resources on their property individually or as part of a coalition, most individual landowners generally should have their own attorneys with experience on this issue to advocate for them. The Madison County Natural Gas Development Working Group is a resource for our residents on all aspects of natural gas development.”
“It’s critical that local governments examine the benefits to landowners, revenues that can be drawn from brining new industries into our county, and balance that with protecting our local infrastructure, roads, and water. Our Natural Gas Working Groups has engaged many experts on this topic to bring Madison County residents the most accurate, balanced information possible on natural gas development in our County. This is just the first of an ongoing conversation between this committee and our community,” said Madison County Natural Gas Development Working Group Chairman and Nelson Supervisor Roger Bradstreet.
Topics discussed at the information session included gas fairways in Madison County, an introduction to Citizens for Safe Energy, taxes and road use issues, and the property owner experience. The featured speaker of the event was Bob Williams who is the Director Environmental Studies at Barnes-William Environmental Science. With over forty years of experience in environmental assessment and impact work, Williams has expertise in permitting and environmental compliance monitoring for energy development projects. Williams focused on the tax benefits derived from the gas companies to municipalities and schools saying, “Not all impacts are negative. Aside from cleaner fossil fuel and jobs, gas companies will provide over $500,000 to the Windsor School system, $179,000 to Broome County and $75,000 to the Town of Windsor.”
Bradstreet explained that in Madison County, the natural gas is targeted from the Utica Shale as it has been reported to the Working Group that the Marcellus shale becomes too shallow around Cortland County. The Utica ‘fairway’ on the other hand extends beyond Route 20, so southern and middle sections of Madison County are potential locations for drilling in the future. He noted that with the combination of current natural gas prices and awaiting the final environmental impact analysis from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recent activity has slowed. Bradstreet said, “Lebanon is the only town to my knowledge with existing wells in Madison County, or of recent producing gas from about 30 wells. In Madison County there are approximately 500 leases signed to date.”
Chris Rossi from Citizens for Safe Energy of Madison County stated, “The goals of Citizens for Safe Energy and the Madison County Natural Gas Development Working Group are very much the same. I am pleased that New York State seems to be taking the side of caution as they consider future permitting in New York.
Timothy Hunt, Cazenovia Town Highway Superintendent elaborated on how local communities can prepare to assess infrastructure concerns stating, “Cazenovia is ahead of the curve as we are establishing road inventories, cost estimates of repair or replacement of roads, which is all anticipated from increased road traffic of heavy trucks and equipment.”
Patty and John Grossman, local property owners addressed quality of life concerns saying, “For two to four months, we experienced increased noise and traffic 24/7 while the Vohsburg well site was being prepared and drilled. We are not part of a spacing unit, but the well was drilled within 1/2 mile of our home.”
Nan and Lyle Warren who have wells on their property and have had a positive experience said, “We have two wells on our property and have not experienced any major inconvenience, with the exception of initial slow pay of committed royalties early on in the process.”
Peter Darby representing the Southern Madison Coalition and Dan Fitzsimmons President of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York discussed their experience as part of landowner coalitions. Darby said, “The coalitions have given us a stronger contingent, with likely better leverage as we negotiate with gas companies, protecting all area property owners whether members or separate from the coalition. Most individual landowners generally still maintain their own attorneys to help guide through the process.”
The Madison County Natural Gas Development Working Group was formed in 2010 with the mission to provide sense of order to the process where safety and environment are paramount, while also weigh the economic impact; to provide contact for Madison County residents where they can register concerns; and to serve as a central communications point for residents and gas companies. The group is comprised of Chairman, Roger D. Bradstreet-Nelson, Vice Chairman, Dan Degear-DeRuyter, Darrin Ball – Lincoln, Bruce Selleck, Dean of Faculty and Harold Orville Whitnall Professor of Geology at Colgate University, Dr. Christopher Nyberg, Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Morrisville State College, Geoffrey Snyder, Director of County Public Health Environmental Division, Scott Ingmire, Director of the Madison County Planning Department, Martha Conway, Journalist with the Madison County Courier, Darrel Griff, President of the Madison County Farm Bureau, Steve Keyes of EmKey Resources, and Steve Lorraine, Manager of Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District. Darrin Ball also serves as our consultant emergency responder, given he has years of experience an officer with the Oneida City Fire Department.
Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Becker charged the group to visit towns within Madison County to discuss concerns and question with the public and start work with this complex issue in Madison County. From those meetings the group began gathering information on sources of water, recycling & treatment of waste water, disposal of solid waste (referred to as shale cuttings), lease terms, coalitions, permitting and regulating by DEC, quality of life, Ad Valorem taxes, and emergency preparedness. Members have taken field trips to Pennsylvania and other counties in New York. The Group meets regularly and communicates its work with the Madison County Board of Supervisors.
Madison County has provided an exclusive web page for ‘The Group’ (MCNGDWG) that has a wealth of information including; mission, pertinent resolutions, SGEIS comments, Frequently Asked Questions, maps, leases, well sites, gas fairways, and more.