Gas Industry Impact Session Kicks Off In Potter County

From Potter County Today

forestdrillingPotter County was the kick-off point for a series of workshops being held across the state to help local government officials and community leaders deal with the impacts of drilling and extraction of natural gas from shale formations found deep under the ground. The message was clear — the impacts of the Marcellus Shale gas rush will be significant. The program moves to St. Marys tonight (Tuesday, June 7), at Gunners, starting at 6 pm.  There is a $50 fee which covers tuition, materials and refreshments. Advance registrations are preferred and are being taken online here. Attendees may also register at the door. More information is available from Kelly Lougee at 717-763-0930. Registration opens at 5:30.

Three experts in community development addressed about 15 people attending the kickoff session on Monday at the Gunzburger Building in Coudersport. During the program, “Planning To Manage Secondary Impacts of Natural Gas Development,” Penn State economic and community development professor Dr. Tim Kelsey emphasized that many of the impacts are unpredictable. He cautioned that building hotels, expanding school buildings and making other long-term changes to adjust to a temporary increase in commerce and population could backfire in the long term, since the gas industry tends to create a larger volume of short-term jobs and many of them require frequent relocations.

Studies of counties where the Marcellus Shale gas boom is already advanced show that about 75 percent of the jobs do not require at least a four-year degree, although many do require specialized training. Average annual salary of the gas-related jobs is nearly $70,000, Kelsey said, but in many cases the work is hard and required travel and flexibility.

Dr. Jason Weigle, leader of the Marcellus Shale Community Education Team at Mansfield University, said he has seen first-hand the rising rents and real estate prices in Bradford and Tioga counties. He provided a summary of impacts being felt in that part of the state and suggested that local leaders develop housing strategies, sewage holding tank regulations and other measures to prepare.

Jerry Walls of Lycoming County, who served as a county planner for many years and is now a consultant, emphasized the need for township and borough officials to coordinate their efforts and be aware of the measures they can use to control the impacts. Weigle concurred. “There are a series of trade-offs coming,” he said. “Your job is to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives, to the extent that you can.”

According to the organizers, “Local officials need to be ready to manage the secondary impacts of drilling, which begins with a clear understanding of what is happening, or could happen, in your community. It is vital that governments think and work proactively to address these impacts, rather than simply waiting for them to happen. Understanding demands that will be placed on township or borough services is key. These include: sewage permitting for ‘man camps’ and new housing; reuse of vacant land and commercial or industrial buildings for natural gas support services; drilling pads and staging areas which need to operate 24/7 with extensive lighting and outdoor storage; high volumes of heavy truck and vehicle trips; road improvements and repair; increased police and emergency management services; and use of existing water mains, wastewater treatment plants and sewer line infrastructure.”

The workshop will continue in Phillipsburg (June 8), DuBois (June 9), Somerset (June 28) and Washington (June 29).

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

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