Residents in Schoharie County plan to meet Friday to discuss the potential opportunities landowners could realize through natural-gas drilling.
Prior discussions and informational sessions were held last year after landowners were approached by individuals looking to secure leases to drill for natural gas believed to be plentiful beneath the ground.
Beef farmer David Huse said the meeting has two purposes: one is to provide some basic information to those unaware of the potential, the other to grow a coalition of landowners who could work toward getting the best deal from gas companies if a drilling operation gets underway.
“Our goal is to have the maximum economic and environmental benefit for the landowners of Schoharie County,” Huse said.
Schoharie County government doesn't play a direct role in drilling, which is regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, county planning director Alicia Terry said.
But the planning department holds training sessions on the topic for local officials, planning board members and others to help educate people on the complicated process involved.
“We're just trying to provide information for people out there to understand the issue,” Terry said.
Terry said the formation of a coalition of landowners is seen as a way to maximize bargaining power for people looking to get some extra value out of their land.
“The more landowners and the more acreage that you can negotiate with these companies as opposed to individuals, the more likely it is you will get a greater return, larger lease values, greater royalties,” Terry said.
The money landowners could receive through leases or through royalties were a gas drilling operation to start could be “substantial,” Terry said.
But getting the necessary regulatory approval for a drilling effort is complicated and requires a hard look at potential impacts drilling could have on water resources, traffic and other topics, Terry said.
The planning department is holding an informational meeting on gas drilling and local processes at the Cobleskill-Richmondville school auditorium on April 21, Terry said.
According to the Web site of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, there is a massive black shale formation beneath the ground of portions of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and southern New York.
Geologists estimate that formation, called "Marcellus Shale," contains as many as 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That amounts to more natural gas used throughout New York State, at current usage, for more than 500 years.
Though the shale's been there for centuries, the DEC Web site cites several factors are behind recent interest in the northeast including improved drilling technology and the high demand for gas in the Northeast.
Today's Schoharie County coalition meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Bouck Hall at SUNY-Cobleskill.