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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Natural gas exploration can bring riches to local communities overnight — but what happens when they disappear just as fast?

“With really no warning at all, the bottom fell out of that,” says Jim Weaver, the Tioga County planner, who advises the county’s commissioners on land use decisions. “In hindsight, looking at boom and bust cycles that have gone on forever, we should’ve known that. But when the dollar’s dangling in front of you and you’re chasing the carrot, before you know it you’re out on a limb, and the limb gets sawed off.”

"Three years ago, it was difficult to have a conversation with someone walking next to you, the roar of traffic was so constant. Driving, it could take an hour to get from one end of town to another. But the trucks also came with business: Mining companies had started drilling wells all over the rolling hills surrounding this town in northern Pennsylvania, extracting the precious natural gas that lay beneath. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking” for short) brought a bonanza to this town the likes of which it hadn’t seen even in the heydays of lumber and coal. With 800 wells drilled over five years, royalties paid to landowners for their mineral rights flowed through the community, helping people buy new farm equipment and donate to local charities. New tax revenues poured into local government coffers that never had much to begin with. But like all booms, it only lasted while the money was good.[...]

Already, some states have decided to avoid the chase: In November, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would not lift the state’s ban on fracking, out of concerns about the potential environmental and health impact. The 185-page report referenced studies conducted in Pennsylvania on outcomes like the birth weight of babies and the accident rate of truck traffic. While the evidence rarely showed conclusive adverse health impacts from fracking, it was enough to convince Cuomo that the benefits didn’t outweigh the risk."

This is the introduction to a five part series about how communities can deal with a natural gas boom. Find the rest of the installments here: Part One, Part TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five

READ UP, Ligonier....let's not be thrown under the bus like other parts of Pennsylvania.