Lebanon Board Hears About Natural Gas Issues from Local Geologist

(Town of Lebanon – Sept. 10, 2012) Town of Lebanon board members directed Supervisor Jim Goldstein to vigorously pursue development of a road use law to govern gas drilling operations in the township after hearing an extensive presentation by Colgate Geology Professor and natural gas industry expert Bruce Selleck at the Sept. 10 meeting of the town board.

Town officials did not act on a moratorium request by town residents who have submitted about 80 signed petitions requesting a one-year moratorium on drilling in the township. There has been no drilling in Lebanon since spring 2011, and Norse Energy, Inc., withdrew all drilling plans and laid off employees last fall. The company also sold most of its local assets to Emkey Resources, a new company operating out of Pennsylvania that is run by the former Norse Energy, Inc., chief executive officer.

Selleck gave a presentation on the reasons why drilling has stopped in the area, shale gas formations in the township and his estimates of projected drilling in the township based on federal studies and current market trends. He said the price of natural gas and the fact that gas in the Southern Tier tended to be “dry” rather than “wet” (without other marketable resources such as butane, ether, etc., could not be derived from drilling here).

Selleck said he predicted any future drilling was five years away; he cited market trends and supply of natural gas exceeding current demand in the region and nation for that estimate. He said federal estimates on market price changes, based on historical trends, makes it unlikely that Lebanon or southern Madison County would see activity in either the Marcellus or Utica shale formations using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, due to the formation limitations and market prices.

Selleck said Marcellus Shale in southern Madison County was too shallow to be drilled, the town was located on the western cusp of Utica Shale and doubted there would be any hydrofracking for Utica Shale unless it was for testing and research purposes.

Town officials, after hearing Selleck’s presentation, declined to hear any more speakers on the issue and directed Goldstein to pursue development of a town road use law and not wait for Madison County to finalize its law.

In other business

* Town board members authorized the purchase of a new John Deere payloader with trade-in and directed Highway Superintendent Alex Hodge and Goldstein to report back on direct purchase vs. lease purchase options.

* Town officials also authorized transfer of ownership of the Smith Gravel Bed off Keefe Road from the town to Shawn Payne with consent of the owners, the Smith family, due to the savings the town would enjoy on not having closure and archaeological costs associated with any gravel bed expansion.

The town will maintain its contract for use of gravel with Payne at a price far below what gravel is running at local gravel facilities. Town Attorney Steven Jones reviewed the contract and the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved the permit transfer.

Payne will now be responsible for operating the gravel bed.

Town board members:

* Are still searching for a town historian. The position has been vacant for over a year and the result is there has been limited programming in this area by the town Historical Society, which the historian was active with.

* Are still looking for resident volunteers to serve on a committee to update the town’s windmill ordinance given the changes in windmill technology, height and other factors. Interested residents should submit a letter of interest to Goldstein.

* Heard updates from the Town Comprehensive Planning Committee about a detailed survey scheduled to go out to all town residents this fall.

* Authorized payment for drilling a new town water well at the town office after the original well collapsed several weeks ago.

* Adopted a resolution to require the town budget for 2013 comply with the 2-percent tax cap and distributed a copy of the resolution to all town officials and department heads.

* Discussed problems with the lack of revenue collection and reporting concerns related to Town Justice John Bartlett. Town officials have asked Bartlett to appear and address the concerns. Goldstein was directed by Jones to contact the Office of the State Comptroller and Office of Court Administration about the concerns.

* Town revenues in the justice fine area to date for 2012 are only $378.53, the lowest in more than 10 years, and Goldstein reported that Bartlett has filed $0.00 reports for the last three months and did the filing on one day in August. The town normally estimates about $2,000 in fines annually.

* Discussed spending concerns in highway related to rising road oil and other highway inputs, as well as parts and repair costs. The town has already had to invest in a new box for one heavy duty truck that will run the town about $24,000.

* The town has been discussing concerns that new highway trucks are much more expensive despite state bid prices due to new emission control requirements; however, he said they are made with recycled steel and are turning out to be only reliable for 10 years rather than 20.

Goldstein noted that a Stadium International truck acquired in 2001 was $107,000, but one acquired last year was more than $187,000. He said the newer trucks seem to have more problems with rust and repairs despite regular and daily maintenance. The town also discussed the status of road repairs with repairs being finalized to Bird Road and Lebanon Hill Road, and CHIPS work being done on Soule Road, Jantzen Road and future work on Lebanon Center Road.

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