Gas Drilling Impact On State Forest Land ‘Minimal’ So Far

From Potter County Today

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Gas-drilling has not had a major impact on state forest land in Potter County and is not likely to expand to any great degree in 2012. That was the gist of a summary presented by Susquehannock District Forester Chris Nicholas last week at a meeting of the Potter County Natural Gas Task Force. There are just four pads on the 200,000-plus acres state forest, as well as two fresh water impoundments. Eleven wells have been drilled from those pads and six of them are producing, Nicholas said. He said additional drilling will come – more than 20 permits have been issued – but energy companies have been much busier on state land in Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton and Clearfield counties.

Other impacts are being felt even without a high level of drilling, Nicholas pointed out. Pipelines and gathering lines are being built at Horton Run, Denton Hill and Card Creek, while seismic testing has taken place on Denton Hill and is coming soon to the Germania area. Gas compressor stations are also having an impact. Companies have made improvements to several roads so they will support heavy truck traffic, Nicholas said.

His staff has a good working relationship with gas companies and their contractors, the forester pointed out, and operators have been following the Forestry Bureau’s oil and gas development guidelines for forest land, which are available to the public. In 2009, the state opened up more than 11,000 acres in Potter County to energy companies who are eager to cash in on gas deposits more than a mile underground in Marcellus Shale formations. Leases were issued on 7,440 acres between Denton Hill and Fox Hill, north and west of Ski Denton and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum; and 3,700 acres north of Mina and west of Dingman Run Road, in Eulalia and Roulette townships. The state is limiting natural gas development to 29 well pads and about 145 disturbed acres in the Denton Hill/Fox Hill parcel, and 14 well pads with about 70 acres cleared in the Eulalia/Roulette leases. The acreage estimates do not include road access and pipeline construction. Conditions in the gas leases are designed to protect waterways, “viewsheds” and sensitive natural areas.

“It does not appear that we are going to have a lot of activity on state forest land next year,” Nicholas said. “Things can change rapidly, but at this point it looks to be a fairly slow year.”

For several decades, Pennsylvania has leased forest land for energy development. The drilling for shale gas is a relatively new process that involves different surface impacts. Private interests own all of parts of the mineral rights on a portion of state forest land in Potter and Cameron counties, so additional drilling is likely.

(Accompanying photo by Curt Weinhold was taken at a well pad on state forest land at Horton Run.)

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.


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